Nurses and other healthcare professionals are being consulted on plans to tax or even ban the sale of sugary drinks in NHS hospitals in England.
A consultation launched today proposes charging an extra fee to any vendor of sweetened drinks on NHS premises, with the money raised spent on staff health initiatives or patient charities.
The document also asks whether the sale of some products should be banned entirely – an approach being taken by hospitals in several other countries.
”Nurses, visitors and patients all tell us they increasingly want healthy, tasty and affordable food and drink options”
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said it was 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,” he said.
“So like a number of other countries we’re now calling time on hospitals as marketing outlets for junk food and fizzy drinks.
“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,” said Mr Stevens.
The radical proposals suggest reducing the number of high-sugar soft drinks on sale in hospitals.
The alternative option – previously reported by Nursing Times – is to impose a fee on vendors of sugar-sweetened drinks that could be up to 20% of their sales.
If agreed, the NHS sugar tax could start as early as next year covering all drinks with added sugar, including fruit juices, milk-based drinks and sweetened coffees.
The policy would be implemented by a variation to the standard NHS contract.
The consultation, which runs until January 18, is seeking the views of NHS staff, patients, carers, the general public and suppliers.
It follows concerns about levels of obesity among NHS staff. A recent survey found obesity was the most significant health problem reported by NHS workers with nearly 700,000 estimated to be obese or overweight.
Rising rates of obesity among NHS staff are not only bad for their personal health but also affect sickness rates and the NHS’s ability to give credible and effective advice about healthy diets, said NHS England.
Meanwhile the products sold in outlets based at NHS premises “can send a powerful message” to the millions of people that visit hospitals each year, it added.