Sugary Drinks May Be Banned From Hospitals To Cut NHS Staff Obesity

Sugary Drinks May Be Banned From Hospitals To Cut NHS Staff Obesity

Sugary drinks could be banned from hospitals in England under new plans to tackle the rising number of overweight NHS staff.

NHS England is consulting on whether to prohibit the sales of beverages with added sugar in hospitals.

As well as cans of pop, this could also include a ban on other sugar-sweetened drinks such as fruit juice with added sugar, and sweetened milk.

Alternatively, it is proposing that vendors should pay a levy to sell such drinks on NHS premises.

More than half of the NHS's 1.3 million staff are estimated to be overweight or obese.

NHS England said that rising rates of obesity among NHS staff is not only bad for their personal health but affects their ability to give credible advice to patients.

Chief executive Simon Stevens said the organisation was "calling time on hospitals as marketing outlets for junk food and fizzy drinks".

Mr Stevens, who is to announce the details of the document at the ukactive conference in London, 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.

"So like a number of other countries we're now calling time on hospitals as marketing outlets for junk food and fizzy drinks."

The organisation has launched a formal consultation proposing to levy a fee for any vendor of sugar-sweetened beverages on NHS premises or alternatively seek views on an outright ban on sugar-sweetened drinks being sold on NHS premises.

The levy, which would be introduced in 2017, would be in addition to the Government's plans to introduce a new tax on the soft drinks industry.

It would cover the "full range" of sugar sweetened drinks including fruit juices, sweetened milk-based drinks and sweetened coffees, a spokeswoman said.

Proceeds would be put towards extending staff health and wellbeing programmes.

Mr Stevens added: "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."

The consultation, which will close on January 18, follows a pilot in one organisation which 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.

Commenting on the consultation, ukactive executive director Steven Ward, said: "With the health service under unprecedented strain, we must urgently shift priorities towards prevention over cure to save the NHS from bankruptcy.

"Promoting the benefits of physical activity and a balanced diet to the NHS workforce is a major step forward.

"GP practices alone receive 300 million visits each year, so a fighting fit NHS will be better-placed to cascade these healthy habits to the wider population."

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: "It's a brilliant move particularly since it stems from the staff's own 'good ideas ' box.

"They know full well the ravages caused by sugary drinks on a patient's health.

"Laudably, Mr Stevens is not preventing the workers taking a drink in with them on shift - but I bet they don't. The trials have shown have shown that visitors and staff alike are happy with the healthier alternatives."

Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: "It's hard to see how a ban on soft drinks can be justified given that the sector has led the way in reducing consumers' sugar intake – down by over 17% since 2012.

"In 2015 we also became the only category to set a calorie reduction target of 20% by 2020.

"Given that the Government is looking to introduce a soft drinks tax in 2018 it seems slightly odd that another public body wishes to duplicate this process."

Sarah Toule, head of health information at the World Cancer Research Fund, added: "NHS England has shown real leadership in tackling obesity in hospitals.

"Being overweight or obese can lead to a number of serious health conditions including cancer. In fact, around 25,000 cancers cases could be prevented every year in the UK if everyone was a healthy weight.

"This bold move will help reduce the number of people who are an unhealthy weight."

NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said: "Healthcare professionals are increasingly concerned about the contribution of sugar to diabetes and obesity, and many are keen to see healthier options in their own workplaces."