Iceland rewards NHS staff with free pizza and ice-cream: Food Active Response

Iceland rewards NHS staff with free pizza and ice-cream: Food Active Response

Earlier this week it was reported in a number of tabloids that Iceland Supermarkets are handing out free pizza and ice-cream to all NHS workers.

The new offer entails that all NHS and emergency service workers who show their Iceland NHS bonus card at the till will receive a voucher for a free Iceland pizza and free Iceland ice-cream, both worth £1 each. Vouchers will be distributed at the till to all NHS staff between 9th-15th September and available for redemption between 9th-22nd September. The offer is said to be available at all stores in the UK, but not online.

We recognise the tremendous work our NHS and emergency services do 24/7, 365 days a year. The commitment and hard work by each member of staff is invaluable, especially considering the significant pressure it is facing with a growing and ageing population that requires more and more treatment for a wide range of reasons – including chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Rewards and benefits are 100% warranted for the work they tirelessly do to keep our nation healthy.

In the same breath, predictions estimate around half of all NHS staff are overweight or obese[i] and a recent cross-sectional study found 1 in 4 of NHS nursing staff classified as obese[ii], it does beg the question whether this is the appropriate type of reward staff deserve or need?

Pizza and ice-cream are two food products that are typically high in total fat, saturated fat, added sugars (even pizza can contain lots of sugar, through the dough, tomato sauce base and even some toppings) and salt. Other than these macronutrients, they contain very little else, meaning they are largely dense in energy (calories) but nutrient poor (do not contain many other nutrients that are important for our health, such as iron, fibre, calcium or Vitamin C). With the average adult in the UK consuming an excess 200-300 calories every day in the UK[iii], energy-dense foods such as pizza and ice-cream should not be featured regularly if we want to achieve a healthy and balanced diet.

Surely there are other rewards that might be more beneficial and rewarding to staff?

Iceland sells a wide range of healthy products – fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, frozen fish and meat, yogurts and much more – why not provide vouchers for foods that have some benefit to our diet? Other examples of rewards for NHS staff include Hallmark Hotels, who rewarded staff a free Sunday night stay in 22 of their hotels, to celebrate the 70-year milestone. In addition, Gulliver’s family theme parks also offered free entry to all NHS staff as part of the NHS Celebration Weekend this weekend, on September 15 and 16th.

In addition, rewards such as the Iceland promotions may be undermining the work the NHS are taking many steps to tackle obesity among their workforce, including banning sugary drinks on premises, working with franchises inside hospitals to offer healthier choices and the work they do around the CQUIN to help reduce NHS staff, patients and visitors exposure to unhealthy food and drink on site[iv]. The Royal College of Nursing have also set up an app specifically for nurses, ‘NURSING YOU’, to support them in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight [v]

There are plenty of other ways to reward our NHS and emergency services staff for their hard work that does not compromise on their health and wellbeing!


[i] NHS (2017) NHS introduces sugary drinks ban to fight staff obesity [online] Available [Accessed: 13th September 2018].

[ii] Kyle RG, Wills J, Mahoney C et al. (2017) Obesity prevalence among healthcare professionals in England: a cross-sectional study using the Health Survey for England. British Medical Journal. 7, e018498.

[iii] Public Health England (2018) Why we are working to reduce calorie intake [online] Available at:

[iv] NHS (2017) CQUIN 2017-19 Briefing [online] Available at: [Accessed: 13th September 2018]

[v] Royal College of Nursing (2018) Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight [online] Available at: [Accessed: 13th September 2018]

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