Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Hospitals in England criticised over junk food


English hospitals have been criticised for allowing patients and visitors to gorge on crisps, fizzy drinks and chocolate.

A cancer prevention charity said England has fallen “woefully” behind Scotland and Wales in the provision of healthy food and drink in hospital vending machines.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said that unlike the other UK nations, England has no national guidelines to ensure hospitals can provide healthy food 24 hours a day.

A poll by the charity found that three-quarters of English hospital trusts have no policy on the food and drink provided by their vending machines.

“Hospital waiting areas often have vending machines that are filled with high-calorie products such as chocolate bars, crisps and sugary soft drinks,” said WCRF general manager Amanda McLean.

“Because there is strong evidence that these foods cause obesity - a risk factor in diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease - they are partly to blame for many people ending up in hospital in the first place.

“Hospitals should put an end to vending machines that sell only high-calorie food and drink. They should be beacons of good health in our communities and encourage and support people in making healthier choices about the food they eat.”

In 2008 the Welsh and Scottish governments introduced guidelines for hospital trusts on providing healthier products in vending machines and England should follow the example, the charity said.

“We want the UK government to correct the situation where England has fallen woefully behind Scotland and Wales in terms of the kind of food and drink offered in vending machines in hospitals,” Ms McLean added.

“Specifically we should be aiming to introduce guidelines for hospital trusts comparable to those in Scotland.”

In June the British Medical Association said hospitals should ban the sale of junk food and unhealthy drinks on their premises.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which called for a ban on unhealthy foods earlier this year, backed the WCRF’s call for guidelines for English hospitals.

Chair Professor Terence Stephenson said: “The NHS needs to avoid providing the same obesogenic environment as the high street and send out a clear message that it takes obesity and the health of the nation seriously by offering patients and staff alike healthy food options.

“In February the academy called for improved food standards in hospitals, including vending machines. There is no reason for England to fall behind other UK nations and not have these guidelines in place.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman, said: “Hospitals in England have a clear responsibility to promote healthier choices in vending machines so staff and visitors can eat good quality food.

“We know that some hospitals have already signed up to our Responsibility Deal and committed to making healthier food and drink available, and would encourage other hospitals to do the same and look after their staff, patients and visitors.”


Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.



Readers' comments (6)

  • 'gorge' - that's a bit dramatic isn't it?
    Staff often have no choice but to eat the rubbish food out of the vending machine because there isn't anything else - but let's be honest we all enjoy a chocolate bar or bottle of pop occasionally, it's what keeps us going through the shift.
    If they want to ban sugary and salty snacks then will they also have to ban visitors or patients bringing these into hospital.
    Yes of course hospitals should sell and offer healthy food but as a nation are all our patients seriously going to ditch the roast spuds and apple crumble.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Sugary drinks, chocolate bars do NOT in themselves cause obesity or diabetes, it is also lack of exercise alongside sedentary work. A serving soldier needs 4000-6000 calories a day to survive, whilst a male working in an office needs 2300-2500. If chocolate bars are banned then cheese has to be banned as it is fat dense and high in salt.
    Sausages will need to be banned, unless they contain at least 80% lean meat. Pork pies, scotch eggs, mayonnaise etc etc will have to be banned because of their fat/salt content. Everything in moderation.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • good nutrition in hospital used to be considered a vital part of nursing care which assisted in healing. a healthy diet is also essential for good mental and physical health.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Joy Millar

    I am a NZ & UK RN. We have a branch of McDonald's on the Ground floor of our major Auckland Hospital. All visitors walk by this area on their way to the various wards. Patients are able to buy food here too. Often they come down from their ward in a wheelchair to purchase whatever they like!!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • George Kuchanny

    Quite so Joy! A storm in a teacup. Exactly how long does an average patient remain in hospital - couple of years?

    This is truly digging to the bottom to try to find something to whinge about. The NHS has far greater problems to deal with. So a patient whops down a few chocolate bars and several bags of crisps. So what? Big deal frankly. Relatives? Really? Oh my, no five star restaurant? Dear me - there's a golden opportunity for PFI going to waste there for sure. La Perfecto Nosho, only £20 a go for a delicate excessively healthy morsel washed down with a superior bottle or three...

    Actually dropping the sarcasm for a bit, I have seen a Costa and a McD on hospital grounds doing a good trade. All we need is Fred's Fish & Chips offering a side order of healthy mushy peas and a flagon of strong healthy tea to wash down the mound of chips and we are really motoring :)

    Costa are going to merge with Starbucks to form a new chain 'CostaBucks' especially to address the issue of providing on hospital premises. As the name implies a cuppa might be rather expensive.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • since we live in an age where everybody does what they wish and there is a breakdown of tradditions, beliefs and values, no control from the authorities, and experts are ignored, why not save money and training costs and with all of these options available, let patients fend for themselves and concentrate on providing nutrients for the bed bound and the very ill.

    another more reasonable alternative would to be to systematically charge a daily nominal amount to all patients which would include the cost of their food which they would be paying anyway if they were not hospitalised and with subsidies for those who cannot afford to pay.

    if a healthservice undertakes the responsiblity to provide care this must be holistic which includes providing adequate and palatable sustenance for those in their care as well as advice on it where required and which will enhance the healing process and do no harm! to do otherwise is a breach in the duty of care which should be seriously investigated!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.