Hospital staff and patients ‘improving food choices’ because of retail standard, finds report

Written by Tom Freeman on 13 November 2018 in News

Hospital retailers found stocking more healthy food hit profits, but Healthcare Retail Standard hailed a success by NHS Health Scotland

Last fruit crate - credit Mary Hutchison

A new standard to ensure hospital shops and cafes stocked healthier food has encouraged visitors to improve their diet, a new report has found.

The Healthcare Retail Standard (HRS) was introduced across Scottish hospitals and other NHS buildings last year to ensure shops stocked healthy options, and a new report by NHS Health Scotland has found the initiative worked.

The standard means half of the food stocked in hospital shops must be nutritious, and 70 per cent of drinks must be healthy options to tackle Scotland's stubborn issues with diet and obesity.

In the year after the HRS was introduced, people bought healthier products and bought fewer less healthy products, the report found.

A study of customers leaving the shops showed 47 per cent had chosen healthy options, compared with just 11 per cent before the HRS was introduced.

The report’s author, Deborah Shipton, Public Health Intelligence Advisor at NHS Health Scotland, said it showed action on availability and price worked.

“The HRS provided useful learning that could be used to bring in similar measures in other settings such as leisure centres, trains, train stations, workplaces and the high street,” she said.

“We hope that our report will help policy-makers working to affect change in the public’s health feel confident enough to take some of the bolder, societal level actions needed, safe in the knowledge that the majority of the public understand the need for and support them; and; that bold actions like the HRS are possible and effective.”

The HRS came into force in April 2017 but retailers did not all comply until the end of the year.

While the cost of food and drink is not shown to have risen, overall sales fell as a result of the new standard and this has had an impact on the providers’ profits.

The first retailer to comply with the standard was the Royal Voluntary Service.

Head of retail for the charity, Andrew Roberts, said: “While there were challenges at the implementation stage, these were all swiftly overcome. Our suppliers have worked with us to amend the product lines they provided to ensure they meet the required standard and these have been well received by our customers.”

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