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NHS England chief proposes 20% sugar tax for hospitals

Simon Stevens wants the NHS to ‘practice what it preaches’ in tackling obesity

Drinks that are high in sugar could cost more when purchased from hospital cafes and vending machines under a new ‘sugar tax’ plan.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens wants to see a 20% levy on all sugary food and drink in place by the year 2020.

He said his aim is for the NHS to ‘practice what it preaches’ in attempting to discourage the consumption of unhealthy food and drinks to aid the country’s obesity crisis.

The tax, which would affect staff as well as patients, could raise between £20 to 40 million, NHS England has estimated. The money would be used to fund staff health and wellbeing programmes.

As well as a tax on drinks, Mr Stevens wants to see better standards of nutrition for patients, staff and visitors, as well as renegotiations of contracts with vendors to scrap junk food in favour of healthier and affordable alternatives.

He said: ‘Because of the role the NHS occupies in national life, all of us working in the NHS have a responsibility to support those who look after patients and to draw attention to, and make the case for, some of the wider changes that will improve the health of the country.’

The move follows a recent petition by TV chef and child obesity campaigner Jamie Oliver calling for a similar tax to be imposed nationally. The petition received 153,800 signatures and was debated in parliament at the end of last year.

 

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