Nurses and NHS staff face ban on sugary drinks

NHS England has outlined proposals to ban sugary drinks from hospitals in a bid to cut obesity levels.

NHS staff may not be able to buy sugary drinks in hospitals from next year, under new plans to tackle obesity among health service employees.

The ban could include drinks such as fruit juice with added sugar,
sweetened milk and fizzy drinks. Picture: iStock

NHS England has launched a consultation which includes proposals of an outright ban or a new fee to be paid by vendors who want to sell the drinks on NHS premises.

The ban could include drinks such as fruit juice with added sugar, sweetened milk and fizzy drinks.

Nearly 700,000 NHS staff are estimated to be overweight or obese. NHS England claims that this isn’t only bad for personal health, but affects sickness absence rates and the ability to give patients ‘credible and effective advice about their health’.

Healthy, tasty, affordable 

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens 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.

‘By ploughing the proceeds of any vendor fees back into staff health and patient charities, these proposals are a genuine win-win opportunity to improve health and cut future illness cost burdens for the NHS.’

In 2014, Nursing Standard launched the Eat Well, Nurse Well campaign, to improve the health of the UK’s nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants.

Lead by example 

The campaign included lobbying employers to provide healthy food choices for staff.           

Government plans for a tax which will put up the price of sugary soft drinks is due to start in 2018.

The Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 30 organisations including the RCN, praised the proposals. 

A spokesperson said: ‘Hospitals are places people go to be made healthy, so it is absolutely right that they lead by example.

Evidence for action 

‘It is encouraging to see that measures are set to be implemented next year, ahead of the government’s sugary drinks tax in 2018. This sense of urgency befits the scale of the problem; there’s no reason to delay when the evidence for action is clear.’

The British Soft Drinks Association does not believe a tax on soft drinks will reduce obesity and claims that companies have reduced sugar intake from soft drinks.

British Soft Drinks Association director Gavin Partington 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.’

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