09 Nov 2016 --- NHS England has announced details of proposed new action to cut obesity and reduce the sales and consumption of sugary drinks sold in hospitals.
As Europe’s largest employer, with over 1.3 million staff, the NHS states it’s committed to improving the health of its workforce.
The formal consultation launched today gives details of a proposed new fee to be paid by vendors, or alternatively seeks an outright ban. England would become the first country in the world to take action across its health service in this way.
A recent survey found obesity to be the most significant self-reported health problem amongst NHS staff, with nearly 700,000 NHS staff estimated to be overweight or obese.
The NHS state that the rising rates of obesity amongst NHS staff are not only bad for their personal health, but also affect sickness absence and the NHS’s ability to give patients credible and effective advice about their health.
Addressing the ukactive National Summit, NHS England’s 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 both improve health and cut future illness cost burdens for the NHS.”
The proposed consultation is complementary to the government’s proposed sugar tax, but would begin sooner – in 2017. Based on best evidence, it would cover the full range of sugar-sweetened drinks, including fruit juices, sweetened milk-based drinks and sweetened coffees.
Proceeds from the fee would be used directly to fund expanded local staff health and wellbeing programs and/or the trust’s patient charities.
Gavin Partington, Director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, commented on the consultation, saying: “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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