The NHS’s heartless war on snacks

In a bid to ensure that patients have a thoroughly miserable time in hospital, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens has decided to ban super-size bars of chocolate.

The bigger chocolate bars, ‘grab-bag’ packets of crisps and any sandwiches containing more than 400 calories will now be banished from all hospital shops. Hospitals that do not switch to the smaller-sized chocolate bars will be fined.

Apparently Stevens isn’t totally heartless. Boxes of chocolates (you know, those cheering gifts that visitors buy for ill loved ones) will be exempt along with some other items. So poor Aunty Val recovering from her hip operation can scoff a box of hospital-bought truffles, but should she care for a jumbo Mars Bar you’ll have to go out of your way to get it – that’s assuming the offending bars are still allowed on hospital grounds.

‘In place of calorie-laden, sugary snacks we want to make healthier food an easy option for hospital staff, patients and visitors’, says Stevens. But healthy options are already available. This new measure is not about increasing choice, it’s about taking choice away – all based on the misguided belief that it is the NHS’s role to lecture patients about their lifestyles.

Considering recent reports that waiting lists for routine surgery are at their highest for a decade, and the constant difficulty people have even getting a GP appointment, you would think Stevens and the NHS might have better things to worry about than the selection of snacks in hospitals.

Besides, most people stay in hospital for short periods of time, so the availability of certain snacks is unlikely to have any impact on people’s overall health or lifestyle.

How about a little compassion? When people are in hospital, they’re, on the whole, not having the best time. They’re already restricted to a hospital bed – restricting their choices further isn’t going to boost morale. We all know the healing and cheering powers of a cup of tea and something sweet. Surely hospital patients are the last people who should be denied these pleasures.

Naomi Firsht is staff writer at spiked and co-author of The Parisians’ Guide to Cafés, Bars and Restaurants. Follow her on Twitter: @Naomi_theFirsht

Naomi will be speaking at the session, Macron’s France: ‘En Marche!’ to business as usual?, at the Battle of Ideas festival in London on 29 October. Get tickets here.

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