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04.04.18

Third of NHS trusts facing ban of sugary drinks due to failure to comply

Simon Stevens has once again threatened an outright ban on sugary beverages as new figures revealed a third of NHS trusts have failed to sign up to the government’s new scheme, which is aimed at cracking down on unhealthy food and drink in hospitals.

Figures released today show that 80 of 232 trusts have not yet signed up to NHS England’s initiative, designed to “battle against the bulge” by cutting down the sales of sugary snacks and drinks – SSBs, or sugar-sweetened beverages – in light of the looming ‘sugar tax.’

They are now at risk of facing an outright ban later this year if they do not comply.

Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said: “We now know that obesity causes 13 different types of cancer as well as heart attacks and strokes, so the NHS has needed to get its own house in order on the epidemic of flab.

“Once the Easter eggs are gone, the NHS will be getting on with ensuring our hospitals and their retailers are offering healthier food and drinks for patients, relatives and staff.”

But today’s figures have not been wholly negative, with statistics already indicating that staff, patients and their friends and family have consumed 632 million fewer calories over the last year as a result of action on curbing the sale of chocolate and unhealthy sandwiches.

It follows from NHS England’s decision last year to order hospitals to remove super-sized chocolate bars and ‘grab bags’ of sugary snacks from shelves. Dividends so far include a large hospital retailer removing advertising and promotions on NHS estates and selling 1.1 million fewer single chocolate bars, as well as removing 275,000 (23%) large bars of chocolate.

The initiative is also reportedly pushing people towards healthier eating habits, with an additional 175,000 pieces of fruit sold in hospital stores over the past year. The Royal Voluntary Service has also worked with suppliers to make healthier sandwiches, which now account for more than half of the total sales.

Similarly, major retailers such as WH Smith and M&S are running a healthy meal deal exclusively in hospitals, featuring no sandwiches over 400 calories and no unhealthy snacks on offer.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for diabetes and obesity at NHS England, said: “We have been clear that the growing obesity crisis sweeping the country is a public health crisis and the evidence backs it up. Obesity is associated with heart attacks, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and a number of other illnesses – causing personal suffering and costing the health service and in turn the taxpayer, billions every year.

“And for all of those conditions, wherever possible, prevention is preferable to cure. Our own sugar restrictions, the new sugar tax and the NHS diabetes prevention programme are all part of what needs to be a concerted effort to address obesity.”

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