NHS considers banning sale of sugary drinks in hospitals

Sugary drinks may be banned in a bid to cut staff obesity in the NHS. Credit: PA

Sugary drinks could be banned from hospitals in England under new plans to tackle the rising number of overweight NHS staff.

NHS England is considering banning the sales of fizzy drinks and other drinks with added sugar, such as fruit juice with added sugar and sweetened milk.

Alternatively, it is proposing that vendors pay a levy to sell sugary drinks on NHS premises, the proceeds of which would be put towards extending staff health and wellbeing programmes.

The organisation has launched a formal consultation on both initiatives.

More than half of the NHS's 1.3 million staff are estimated to be overweight or obese, something which it said is not only bad for its employees' health, but also affects their ability to give credible advice to patients.

Sugar cubes highlight the amount of sugar in fizzy drinks. Credit: PA

Chief executive Simon Stevens said the organisation was "calling time on hospitals as marketing outlets for junk food and fizzy drinks".

Mr Stevens, who is to announce the details of the document at the ukactive conference in London, said: "Confronted by rising obesity, type 2 diabetes and child dental decay, it's 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.

"So like a number of other countries we're now calling time on hospitals as marketing outlets for junk food and fizzy drinks."

A pilot scheme in one organisation reported that although no sugary drinks were sold during a trial, the number of drinks sold did not decrease and they were financially unaffected.

Commenting on the consultation, ukactive executive director Steven Ward, said: "With the health service under unprecedented strain, we must urgently shift priorities towards prevention over cure to save the NHS from bankruptcy."

NHS England is considering banning the sale of sugary drinks in hospitals. Credit: PA

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: "It's a brilliant move particularly since it stems from the staff's own 'good ideas' box.

"They know full well the ravages caused by sugary drinks on a patient's health."

However, it was not all praise for the idea.

Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said: "It's hard to see how a ban on soft drinks can be justified given that the sector has led the way in reducing consumers' sugar intake - down by over 17% since 2012.

"In 2015 we also became the only category to set a calorie reduction target of 20% by 2020.

"Given that the Government is looking to introduce a soft drinks tax in 2018 it seems slightly odd that another public body wishes to duplicate this process."

The World Cancer Research Fund predicts that around 25,000 cancers cases could be prevented every year in the UK if everyone was a healthy weight.