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The NHS is today stepping up the battle against obesity, diabetes and tooth decay by announcing that sugary drinks will be banned in hospital shops beginning from next year unless suppliers voluntarily take decisive action to cut their sales over the next 12 months.

NHS England is announcing that leading retailers have agreed to continue voluntarily reducing sales of sugary drinks to 10 percent or less of their total drinks sales within hospitals over the coming year.

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

Remaining retailers are now being urged to join them in order to kick-start a major health drive and ensure the NHS leads the way on tackling the devastating impact of the country’s sweet tooth on public health.

In addition, NHS England is from this month, April 2017, introducing new national incentives for hospitals and other NHS providers to go further to improve food on their premises. Progress has already been made in 2016/17 to cut all price promotions on sugary drinks and foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS), end advertisements of these foods on NHS premises, stop sales at checkouts and ensure healthy food options are available at all times, including for those working night shifts.

But to build on this, by April 2018 hospitals must make further efforts, including:

- 60 per cent of confectionery and sweets stocked do not exceed 250 kcal, rising to 80 per cent of confectionery and sweets in 2018/19.
- 60 per cent of pre-packed sandwiches and other savoury pre-packed meals to contain 400 kcal or less per serving and do not exceed five grams of saturated fat per 100g, moving to 75 per cent in 2018/19.

NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, said, “A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down but spoonfuls of added sugar day-in, day-out mean serious health problems. 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.”

The NHS is Europe’s largest employer, with over 1.3 million staff, but nearly 700,000 of these are estimated to be overweight or obese, which has an impact on sickness absence and the NHS’ ability to give patients credible and effective advice about their health. NHS premises also receive heavy footfall from the communities of which they are a part, with over one million patients every 24 hours, 23 million A&E attendances and millions more hospital outpatient appointments each year.

Because of this, the NHS is in a great position to take action on the damage being caused by poor diet to the nation’s health and the wider healthcare system. With more money spent each year on the treatment of obesity and diabetes than on the police, fire service and judicial system combined, urgent action is needed.

Katherine Button, Campaign for Better Hospital Food coordinator, said: “We are delighted that NHS England has taken such decisive action to reduce the sale of sugary drinks in hospitals. Earlier this year, our Healthy Hospital Food Brand League table showed that when NHS England sets clear targets, and companies are held to account, then hospital food retailers respond.

“The Campaign for Better Hospital Food, an alliance of food, health, patient and NHS staff groups, welcomes this latest move to limit junk food and sugary drinks sales 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.”

Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “As a nation, we’re consuming too much sugar. This can lead to weight gain and in turn increase our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. 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. With this plan people with diabetes should still have access to products that are commonly used to treat hypos.”

(source: NHS)

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