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Plans launched to ban sugary drinks from hospitals

‘Time called’ on junk food and fizzy beverages

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 09 November 2016

The NHS in England has today announced plans that could see the ban of sugary drinks sold in hospitals.

If the proposals, launched for consultation today, by chief executive Simon Stevens, go ahead, England would become the first country in the world to take action across its health service in this way. 

The formal consultation gives details of a proposed new fee to be paid by vendors, or alternatively seeks views on an outright ban.

As Europe’s largest employer, with over 1.3 million staff, the NHS committed in its overall strategy, the Five Year Forward View, to improve the health of its workforce.

A recent survey found obesity to be the most significant self-reported health problem amongst NHS staff, with nearly 700,000 NHS staff estimated to be overweight or obese.

NHS premises also receive heavy footfall from the communities of which they are a part, with over 1 million patients every 24 hours, 22 million A&E attendances and 85 million outpatient appointments each year. 

Addressing the ukactive National Summit, Simon Stevens said: “Confronted by rising obesity, type 2 diabetes and child dental decay, it’s time for the NHS to practice what we preach. Nurses, visitors and patients all tell us they increasingly want healthy, tasty and affordable food and drink options…we’re now calling time on hospitals as marketing outlets for junk food and fizzy drinks. By ploughing the proceeds of any vendor fees back into staff health and patient charities these proposals are a genuine win/win opportunity to both improve health and cut future illness cost burdens for the NHS.”

Today’s formal consultation proposes levying a fee for any vendor of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) on NHS premises. It is complementary to the government’s proposed sugar tax, but would begin sooner – in 2017 – and would cover the full range of sugar sweetened drinks. Subject to consultation, the drinks affected would be any drink with added sugar including fruit juices, sweetened milk-based drinks and sweetened coffees.

Proceeds from the fee would be used directly to fund expanded local staff health and wellbeing programmes and/or the trust’s patient charities. It also seeks views on an outright ban on certain products being sold on NHS premises, an approach now beginning to be taken by hospitals in several other countries.

A recent two month NHS pilot of different types of sugar policies at four hospitals has already taken place and showed positive results. For example, one site reported that although no sugary drinks were sold during the trial, the overall total number of drinks sold did not decrease and they were financially unaffected.

The consultation closes on January 18.

How would qualify the communication between primary and secondary care services? (See OnMedica News 20/04)

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