NHS England boss ponders sugary drinks ban

Sugary drinks are in the firing line

The NHS in England is looking into whether it should ban or impose a tax on any sugary drinks sold in hospitals.

Chief executive Simon Stevens told BBC News that he wants the NHS to set a healthy example and “practise what we preach”.

He said trials at four NHS hospitals show that both options have the desired impact.

If the plan goes ahead, it would affect fruit juices and sweetened coffee drinks as well as sugary sodas. It is believed that England would be the first country in the world to take such action. The consultation runs until 18 January.

The BBC reports that a 20% tax on sugary drinks could raise £20m-£40m a year.

Proceeds would be put back into patient charities and “health and wellbeing programmes” aimed at keeping NHS England’s 1.3m employees fit.

Nevertheless, wholesalers worried about an impact on sales may be interested to learn that during recent trials, one hospital that banned sugary drinks found the overall total number of drinks sold did not decrease.

Stevens said: “Confronted by rising obesity, type-2 diabetes and child dental decay, it’s time for the NHS to practice what we preach.

“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.”

Gavin Partington, 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.”

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