Sugary drinks could be banned in hospital shops next year
Sugary drinks will be banned in hospitals if retailers do not cut down the number that are sold over the next year, NHS England has today warned.
The news follows NHS England CEO Simon Stevens announcing last year that measures would be introduced as part of a national NHS health drive.
Retailers selling the beverages in hospitals will have to reduce sales to 10% less of their total drinks sales within 12 months or unhealthy drinks could be removed from hospitals entirely.
A number of key suppliers working in hospitals including WH Smith, M&S, Greggs, and Subway have all pledged to cut sales of the drinks in a pledge to promote a healthy lifestyle in NHS buildings.
On top of that, from April 2017 NHS England has said it will introduce national incentives for hospitals and other providers to boost the amount of health food found on their premises.
NHS England has also told shops to ensure that 60% of confectionery and sweets stocked do not exceed 250kcal by April next year, rising to 80% of products in 2018-19.
Stevens said the move was a great step forward and that he was glad retailers had agreed to take decisive action to send a strong message to the public about the link between sugar and obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.
“A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down, but spoonfuls of added sugar day-in, day-out mean serious health problems,” Stevens warned.
However, the measures are not in place just to improve the eating habits of patients, but also for the good of NHS staff. Of the 1.3 million people employed by the organisation, 700,000 are estimated to be overweight or obese, something which has a serious impact on staff absences and has the knock-on effect of harming the credibility of staff giving advice to patients.
Katherine Button, Campaign for Better Hospital Food co-ordinator, added: “We are delighted that NHS England has taken such decisive action to reduce the sale of sugary drinks in hospitals.
“Earlier this year, our Healthy Hospital Food Brand League table showed that when NHS England sets clear targets, and companies are held to account, then hospital food retailers respond.”
BMA – NHS England must go one step further
However, the BMA stated that though the move was a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough in improving eating habits in the nation’s hospitals.
“These unhealthy drinks have no place in the NHS which is supposed to encourage, and improve, health and wellbeing,” said Professor Parveen Kumar, who is the chair of the BMA’s board of science.
“Selling sugary drinks in hospitals sends mixed messages to patients and visitors, especially children and young people,” she added.
Prof Kumar stated that it was important to promote the wellbeing of staff, who were so stretched on site that they had to use on-site vending machines to stave off hunger on the move.
“I would like to see the NHS go one step further and extend this decision to include all unhealthy food and snacks sold in hospitals, with a sugar content over a specific amount per 100 grams, to help further promote healthy eating,” she said.
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