I ended up in Ninewells hospital twice yesterday. Luckily for me, I was simply providing a taxi service for two different hospital visitors.
Some hospitals these days have an area that resembles a shopping mall. One such hospital is Ninewells in Dundee. While we were waiting for visitor number 1 to be released, my delightful assistant and I wandered around looking for the WRVS (Women’s Royal Voluntary Service) cafe. Alas, the WRVS does not appear to run one of their friendly little old lady cafes at Ninewells. Being on rather a large scale, Ninewells has replaced the WRVS with a commercially operated outfit:
As of last year, thanks to the SNP (Scottish National Party), I get free medical prescriptions. Although the NHS (National Health Service) has its problems, I think it’s a wonderful institution and one of the things that makes me glad to live in the UK.
However, for reasons I’m about to elaborate on, I think the NHS has a duty to encourage healthy eating and should choose their snack providers with this in mind. These were the cakes on display in the hospital cafe:
I like a nice doughnut or Danish pastry myself from time to time, and perhaps if you’re in hospital you need a bit of comfort food like this, but the thing that struck me as odd was that these were the only cake choices to be seen. Not one sponge cake or scone in sight.
If there had been a sponge cake I may well have plumped for it, but since I didn’t fancy any of the cakes on offer I opted for a packet of Ginger Parkins biscuits as possibly the least artery-clogging sweet option:
It was very warm, as hospitals tend to be, and so rather than a cup of tea I opted for a bottle of water, while my assistant went for some juice and a packet of salted crisps:
In addition to the doughnuts, pastries and biscuits there were some pre-packed sandwiches in the cafe. There was also a hot food section which contained sausage rolls and meat pies, but I didn’t see a single vegetable or piece of fruit anywhere. In fact, the only ‘healthy’ things I saw in addition to the water were a couple of bottled smoothies, sitting alongside the presumably far more popular, and certainly more numerous, bottles of Coke and other fizzy drinks.
Apparently heart disease is the biggest killer in the western world, and a large proportion of NHS resources – and those of health services in other countries – are consumed by dealing with heart conditions.
Some heart conditions are hereditary, or for some other reason no fault of the people who are unfortunate enough to have them, but you can reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease by reducing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The NHS’s own website states:
” You should avoid food containing saturated fats because these will increase your cholesterol levels.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- meat pies
- sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- ghee – a type of butter that is often used in Indian cooking
- hard cheese
- cakes and biscuits
- foods that contain coconut or palm oil”
I would think that the food on offer at Ninewells hospital contained all of the above, and very little of the following, also taken from the NHS website.
“A balanced diet should include a small amount of unsaturated fat, which will help reduce your cholesterol levels.
Foods high in unsaturated fat include:
- oily fish
- nuts and seeds
- sunflower, rapeseed, olive and vegetable oils”
There may well have been some tuna in sandwiches (no doubt combined with the ubiquitous mayonnaise) and vegetable oils present, but the overwhelming proportion of saturated fats on display was not a good advert for healthy eating.
It would be very hypocritical of me, as a frequent indulger in cakes and the like, to suggest that cutting these things out altogether is what people should do, but I think the NHS needs to practice what it preaches and promote healthy eating in its own hospitals.
Sorry NHS, I think you do a great job in difficult circumstances, but there are plenty of cafe owners running eateries with delicious healthy food options who could be providing a better, healthier, service in your fine hospitals.
That’s my little soapbox item for the day.