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NHS leaders turn screw with threat of ban on sugary drinks

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NHS organisations have been warned that the sale of sugary drinks will be banned in future if they continue to ignore current efforts to reduce sales on a voluntary basis.

National bodies NHS England and Public Health England have said in a statement that sugary drinks will be further removed from NHS canteens, shops and vending machines during 2018.

“It’s important the NHS practices what it preaches on healthy food and drink”

Simon Stevens

They noted that the NHS was already “taking action on sugar”, with almost two thirds of trusts now signed up to a voluntary scheme to reduce sales of sugary drinks to 10% or less of sold beverages.

Currently 141 of 232 health service trusts have signed up to the voluntary scheme to reduce sales of sugary drinks, but they noted that this meant 91 trusts were yet to join the scheme that covers sugary soft drinks, milkshakes and hot drinks with added sugar syrups.

Hospitals and suppliers have now been warned that a failure to take action to reduce sales by the end of March, will lead to a ban being introduced later this year instead.

However, the two national bodies also highlighted that some hospitals had already gone further than the NHS voluntary scheme and introduced their own bans on sugary drinks.

“Hospitals should play an important role in preventing obesity, not just treating it”

Duncan Selbie

Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust banned the sale of sugary drinks two years ago, while beverages sold on site at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust have been 100% non-sugar sweetened for 12 months.

As well as hospitals, 14 national suppliers have signed up to the voluntary scheme including WH Smith, Marks & Spencer, Greggs and the Royal Voluntary Service.

In addition, in October, NHS England targeted the sale of super-sized chocolate bars in its battle against staff obesity. Hospital trusts were told they would face losing funding if they failed to remove super-size chocolate bars and “grab bags” of sugary snacks from shelves.

More than one in four nurses in England is obese, according to a high profile study that was published in December.

Meanwhile, levels among support staff are even higher, suggested the research in BMJ Open, which called on the NHS to take urgent action to tackle the problem and “put its own house in order”.

Speaking on the latest warning to trusts to take action, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “It’s important the NHS practices what it preaches on healthy food and drink.

“We want 2018 to be the year when the tasty, affordable and easy option for patients, staff and visitors is the healthy option,” he said. “Many NHS hospitals have answered the call and are taking positive action.”

Meanwhile, Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said: “Hospitals should play an important role in preventing obesity, not just treating it.

“Plans to offer healthier food and restrict less healthy options are a positive step towards tackling the country’s obesity problem,” he added.

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