Royal Voluntary Service offers healthier choices for food shopping in hospitals

Social Enterprise Mark holder Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) is leading the way in providing healthier choices within hospital retail, with the newly launched Shop & Co; a modern convenience store providing healthier eating options in Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride.

This is the next step in the transformation of RVS retail outlets to provide a modern shopping experience incorporating Healthier Choices. Significant changes have been made this year to the range and promotions across all outlets. All of its Scottish stores have now achieved the Healthcare Retail Standard (making RVS the first multiple outlet retailer to achieve this) and all of sites in England and Wales have met the NHS England CQUIN requirements.

The first Shop & Co was officially opened on 20th March by Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Donald Cameron. He said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to open the new Shop & Co at Hairmyres hospital.  People go to hospital to recover from illness and injury, and the ability to access healthier food complements the recovery process.  I wholeheartedly welcome the approach being taken by Royal Voluntary Service to increase its range of low fat, low calorie and gluten free options, as well as its focus on offering more fruit to promote the ‘1 of your 5 a day’ campaign and ultimately doing a significant amount in making our hospitals healthier places for patients, staff and visitors.”

Busy shift patterns don’t always make it easy for NHS staff in Scottish hospitals to eat, drink and shop healthily.  Research by Royal Voluntary Service found that one in seven (14%) Scottish NHS doctors and nurses admitted they have a poor diet and three quarters (74%) wanted to see healthier options introduced into their hospital workplace. The charity is committed to changing the face of hospital retail by improving and increasing the range of healthy food and drink choices available, and has earned Government praise for its efforts.  It was the first hospital retailer to achieve the Healthcare Retail Standard (HRS), part of the Scottish Government’s health promotion framework for healthcare buildings, and will achieve the standard across its entire Scottish retail estate ahead of mandatory introduction at the end of March.

Last October, Royal Voluntary Service Revitalise was launched, the first health-focused dietary-specific hospital shop at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.  Shop & Co at Hairmyres Hospital will feature a Royal Voluntary Service Revitalise concession, selling healthier products that meet strict nutritional criteria as well as those that meet particular dietary needs. The concession will offer a range of gluten-free products, alongside healthy snacks and lunch offers.  Clear signage and labeling will enable customers to make healthier choices and to find food and drinks that meet their dietary requirements.

Since launching Healthier Choices ranges in Scotland, RVS has noticed significant changes in customer behaviour as shown on the graphic below:

Shop & Co is run by local staff and volunteers from Royal Voluntary Service, the older people’s charity.  The hospital shop’s team of friendly, trained volunteers, many of them aged over 70, also signpost services available to older people in the local community.

Royal Voluntary Service Chief Executive David McCullough said: “For far too long hospitals have not been the most healthy places to buy food and drink, which can’t be right when we consider many of the diseases they treat.  We know that NHS staff working in hospitals in Scotland find it difficult to make the healthy choices they want, which is why we decided it was important that we take an early lead on NHS workforce health reform.  The opening of Shop & Co at Hairmyres is the next step in the transformation of our retail outlets to provide a modern shopping experience incorporating Healthier Choices.  These are exciting and important developments in hospital retail and are already making a difference.  The changes we are making in range and environment make us the NHS retailer of choice.  We look forward to working with many more commissioners and hospital partners to ensure that the retail experience within their hospital settings is a healthy – and tasty – one.”

For more information about Shop & Co, visit