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NHS England consults on sugary drink tax in hospitals

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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”

Simon Stevens

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.

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Just another way of hoovering up money from the customer. If bothered by sugary-drinks, don't stock them in the hospital. Taxing people just looks as though you really need them to consume such products so as to fund government projects. If you need taxation to fund the NHS, then a tax on sugary-drinks sold within the premises is highly-dubious.

    I don't think sugary-drinks are the reason NHS workers are obese. Try ward chocolates, work routine, high-carb foods, stress, being indoors for a whole shift, etc, etc.

    Sugar-tax is as meaningless money-grab by those who need the tax. It won't alter the usage, it will just mean shopping tendencies might change. Cheaper alternatives, bringing.

    If the NHS is privatised, it will likely be because the NHS has nagged people to death and the public are sick of it. The encroachment into the private space by government institutions is leading to a backlash. If we move beyond private companies providing healthcare to full-out separation from the state, it will be because the NHS went too far in its disdain for its funders.

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  • Presumably the hospitals are also going to close the shops that they house in their buildings (at considerable profit no doubt), that sell sweets, chocolates and cakes. Oh and don't forget the canteen that has fattening desserts on show!!!!!

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