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Hospital shops agree to reduce levels of sugar in drinks

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NHS England has announced that leading retailers have agreed to voluntarily reducing sales of sugary drinks to 10% or less of their total drinks sales within hospitals over the coming year.

WH Smiths, Marks & Spencer, Greggs, the SUBWAY brand, Medirest, ISS and the Royal Voluntary Service are the leading suppliers who have today pledged to cut sales.

“Big name retailers are agreeing to take decisive action, which helps send a powerful message”

Simon Stevens

Sugary drinks will be banned in hospital shops from next year, unless suppliers voluntarily take decisive action to cut their sales over the next 12 months.

The remaining retailers are now also being urged to help “kick-start a major health drive” so the NHS “leads the way on tackling the devastating impact of the country’s sweet tooth on public health”.

In addition, from this month, NHS England is introducing new national incentives for hospitals and other NHS providers to go further to improve food on their premises.

NHS England said progress had been made in 2016-17 to cut all price promotions, advertising and sales at checkouts on NHS premises for sugary drinks and foods high in fat, sugar or salt.

In addition, shops on NHS premises had agreed to ensure healthy food options were available at all times, including for those working night shifts.

“Taking this step to make hospitals healthier places for all of us”

Chris Askew

But to build on this, by April 2018, they must ensure that 60% of confectionary and sweets stocked do not exceed 250kcal, rising to 80% of confectionary and sweets in 2018-19.

In addition, 60% of pre-packed sandwiches and other savoury meals must contain 400kcal or less per serving and do not exceed five grams of saturated fat per 100g, moving to 75% in 2018-19.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, said: “It’s great that following discussion with NHS England, big name retailers are agreeing to take decisive action, which helps send a powerful message to the public and NHS staff about the link between sugar and obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”

NHS England noted that the health service was Europe’s largest employer, with over 1.3 million staff, but nearly 700,000 of these are estimated to be overweight or obese.

This had an impact on sickness absence and the NHS’ ability to give patients credible and effective advice about their health, it said.

Katherine Button, Campaign for Better Hospital Food co-ordinator, said: “We are delighted that NHS England has taken such decisive action to reduce the sale of sugary drinks in hospitals.

“NHS hospitals are trusted by patients, families and staff to keep them fit and well and NHS England is helping everyone to take a big healthy step in the right direction,” she added.

Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens

Source: Peter Searle

Simon Stevens

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “It’s great news that NHS England is leading by example and taking this step to make hospitals healthier places for all of us.

“People with diabetes find it difficult to manage their condition well in hospital. They may rely on a sugary drink to treat their hypos, which is when blood sugar levels go too low due to diabetes medication,” he said. “With this plan people with diabetes should still have access to products that are commonly used to treat hypos.”

NHS England launched a consultation in November 2016 on action it could take to reduce the sale of sugary drinks on NHS premises, including imposing a ban.

While the ban will be written into the contract that all trusts must adhere to, in practice it could only take effect on a rolling basis as supplier contracts come up for renewal from April 2018.

NHS England is, therefore, asking retailers to voluntarily reduce their sugar-sweetened drinks sales to 10% or less per retailer, per NHS outlet by 31 March 2018.

Should the voluntary scheme secure sufficient coverage of suppliers and a subsequent reduction in sales of sugar-sweetened beverages, in early 2018 NHS England will suspend its proposed ban.

The type of drinks that will be affected include:

Pre-packaged bottles and cans, or those made on NHS premises (e.g. refillable soft drinks and coffee with sugar syrup)

Those containing added sugars or has a total sugar content of five grams or more per 100ml

Fruit juices with added sugar

Milk-based drinks with added sugar (depending on total milk content)

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The concern is that they replace these with the even more poisonous 'diet' drinks, as they have done in ninewells, Dundee. It's insanity. A hospital promoting these as being better for you. The evidence suggests that fake sweeteners like aspartame are poison - and commonly found in diet juice, chewing gum, confectionery

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