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Sugary drinks may be banned from hospital shops

NHS England will ban the drinks unless retailers take action to cut sales over the next 12 months

Ingrid Torjesen

Friday, 21 April 2017

Sugary drinks will be banned in hospital shops from next year unless suppliers voluntarily take decisive action to cut their sales over the next 12 months, NHS England has warned.

Leading retailers, WH Smith, Marks & Spencer, Greggs, the SUBWAY(r) brand, Medirest, ISS and the Royal Voluntary Service, have all agreed to continue voluntarily reducing sales of sugary drinks to 10% or less of their total drinks sales within hospitals over the coming year.

NHS England is urging remaining retailers to join them to kick-start a major health drive and ensure the NHS leads the way on tackling the devastating impact of the country’s sweet tooth on public health.

NHS England is also introducing new national incentives for hospitals and other NHS providers to go further to improve food sold on their premises.

In 2016/17, progress has been made by cutting all price promotions on sugary drinks and foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS), ending advertisements of these foods on NHS premises, stopping sales at checkouts and ensuring healthy food options are available at all times, including for those working night shifts.

To build on this, NHS England says that by April 2018 hospitals must ensure that 60% of confectionery and sweets stocked do not exceed 250 kcal, rising to 80% of confectionery and sweets in 2018/19; and that 60% of pre-packed sandwiches and other savoury pre-packed meals contain 400 kcal or less per serving and do not exceed five grams of saturated fat per 100g, moving to 75% in 2018/19.

NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, said: “A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down but spoonfuls of added sugar day-in, day-out mean serious health problems. It’s great that following discussion with NHS England, big name retailers are agreeing to take decisive action, which helps send a powerful message to the public and NHS staff about the link between sugar and obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”

The NHS is Europe’s largest employer, with over 1.3 million staff, but nearly 700,000 of these are estimated to be overweight or obese, which has an impact on sickness absence and the NHS’s ability to give patients credible and effective advice about their health. NHS premises also receive heavy footfall from the communities of which they are a part, with over one million patients every 24 hours, 23 million A&E attendances and millions more hospital outpatient appointments each year.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “As a nation, we’re consuming too much sugar. This can lead to weight gain and in turn increase our risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other health conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. It’s great news that NHS England is leading by example and taking this step to make hospitals healthier places for all of us.

“People with diabetes find it difficult to manage their condition well in hospital. They may rely on a sugary drink to treat their hypos, which is when blood sugar levels go too low due to diabetes medication. With this plan people with diabetes should still have access to products that are commonly used to treat hypos.”

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