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Obesity the new smoking - NHS boss

Published 31/05/2015

NHS England's chief executive has said people needed to
NHS England's chief executive has said people needed to "get much more serious" about their own health.
Simon Stevens called on responsible retailers and food producers to take action to take sugar out of foods

Obesity is the "new smoking", NHS England's chief executive has warned, as he said people needed to "get much more serious" about their own health.

Simon Stevens called on responsible retailers and food producers to take action to take sugar out of foods, and to stop the "slow burn of food poisoning through all of this sugar".

He told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show that the food industry "does have a huge responsibility here".

Mr Stevens added the health service needed to "clamp down" on some staffing agencies who were "ripping off the NHS".

Mr Stevens said: "I do think we are going to need reformulation to take sugar out of foods in the same way that successfully that's happened with salt over the last several years. I think responsible retailers, food producers, can smell the coffee here.

"They can see that public attitudes are changing and they are going to need to take action because we can see that if that doesn't happen then in effect what we are doing is a slow burn of food poisoning through all of this sugar that then goes on to cause cancer, diabetes, heart disease, that's what we are doing to our kids, we've got to stop it."

Asked about rationing, Mr Stevens said the basis on which people get care on the NHS should be their ability to benefit, adding "that should be the test".

He said: "Certainly blanket exclusions like that are not consistent with the principle that the test should be, will this patient benefit from this treatment? But the underlying point is that we have got to get much more serious as a nation about our own health and about prevention.

"And we've done actually very well in terms of cutting smoking and teenage pregnancy and drink driving, but the new smoking is obesity. And as we've just seen this past weekend in fact, one in five cancer deaths is now caused by obesity."

Mr Stevens also said the NHS had "got to tackle" the "big extra spending" on temporary staffing.

He said: "What we've got to do is convert that spending into good, paying permanent jobs."

He went on: "One of the things we've got to do is ensure that NHS hospitals are offering flexible employment for these nurses who are currently working in these temporary agencies, but also we will have to clamp down on some of these staffing agencies who frankly are ripping off the NHS."

Mr Stevens said it was "very hard" for individual hospitals to intervene, but added that "collectively the NHS can take action here and we will be doing that".

On the Conservatives' election pledge to provide a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week NHS, he said there would be "extra costs", adding "that's why we are going to need the extra resources".

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