Trust forced to act after outcry over vending machine placed near GP surgery

The Oak Tree Centre, in Huntingdon,

The Oak Tree Centre, in Huntingdon, - Credit: Archant

A vending machine at a health centre in Huntingdon has been forced to have its stock replaced, after patients complained some snacks were too high in sugar and fat.

The Oak Tree Centre, which houses the Acorn General Practice, the Acorn Pharmacy and the Anchor Dental Surgery, had the machine installed in April, selling crisps, sweets and fizzy drinks near the waiting area for the GP.

Since its installation though, people have issued complaints to the surgery about the hypocrisy of placing the snack machine in a health centre, with some even taking to social media.

One user on forum, Streetlife, said: “Of all the places to put a vending machine selling crisps, sweets and pop I would have thought a doctor and dentist surgery waiting room is the most inappropriate place possible, considering the country’s obesity and diabetes crisis.”

Even a member of staff took to the site to have her say.

“I work there and I think there should not be these machines in health places and that includes hospitals,” Denise E wrote.

“It’s no good doctors telling patients off for being overweight then putting temptation in their way; you wouldn’t put a cigarette machine in there.”

Most Read

The Acorn Surgery also received complaints about young children having to be prised away from the machine, as well as concerns that traders selling similar items across the road would suffer from the loss of customers.

Trish Hawitt Palmer, practice manager, said: “Since the installation of the snack and drinks vending machine and coffee machine several weeks ago, we have had numerous complaints directed at us from patients as they are under the impression that the GP surgery has installed it – which we of course have not.

“I believe it is the site of the machines which makes a perhaps natural connection with the surgery as they have been installed directly next to our surgery’s patient self-check in screen and off our main waiting area.”

Following discussions, the practice’s patient participant group filed a complaint to Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust – the body responsible for the machine.

Now, providers Cambridge Vending has been forced to re-stock it.

“Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust is committed to supporting people make healthy choices about their lifestyles,” a spokesman told The Hunts Post.

“Cambridge Vending, the provider of the snack facility at the Oak Tree Centre, has welcomed our feedback in relation to the availability of healthy options, so much so that the vending machine is now solely stocked with healthy snacks.

“All cold drinks are diet or very low in sugar. We will continue to monitor feedback from staff and patients in the coming months before deciding on longer term plans.”

The machine stocks Graze packets, Alpen and Go-Ahead bars, but still offers marshmallow Sqaures bars, Diet Coke and fizzy Vimto cans.