09 Oct 2018

Every NHS hospital has agreed to cut sales of sugary drinks on their premises as part of NHS England action to curb rising levels of obesity.

All 227 trusts across England have pledged to reduce sales of sugar-sweetened drinks to 10% or less of their total drinks sales.

Growing numbers of hospitals have signed up since NHS England introduced cash rewards for those that hit the target last year. 

The latest data shows that the proportion of drinks sold on NHS premises that contain added sugar has reduced for seven months in a row falling to just 7.4% in participating Trusts in June 2018.

Nearly 30 million teaspoons of sugar have now been removed from NHS canteens, shops and vending machines as a result. 

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England said: “Every hospital in the country is now answering this important call to action and the NHS is rightly leading the way in battling the growing obesity epidemic across the country. 

“Obesity and its associated dangers is a worrying challenge facing the NHS and so it is crucial, as we draw up a long term plan for the future of the NHS that we take action where we can to avoid a long list of preventable problems in the years ahead.” 

Last year NHS England challenged hospitals to sign up to these ambitious targets and with every hospital now signed up, it is hoped that sugar intake for patients, staff and families visiting hospitals will reduce even further. 

In total, 14 leading national retailers operating from NHS premises including WH Smith, Boots, Marks & Spencer and Greggs, have signed up to the health drive to tackle the impact of the country’s expanding waistlines.  23 NHS Trusts and two retailers have decided to stop selling sugary drinks altogether. 

The NHS is Europe’s largest employer, with over 1.3 million staff in England alone. 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. 

As part of action to improve the health of its workforce, NHS England has already provided an incentive for hospitals to limit confectionary sold in hospital canteens, stores, vending machines and other outlets. 

Being overweight or obese are the major modifiable risk factors for Type 2 diabetes and the NHS has seen the number of people living with Type 2 diabetes double over the last 20 years, but it is a largely preventable disease.

Professor Jonathan Valabhji, National Clinical Director for Diabetes and Obesity, at NHS England:

“We have been clear that the growing obesity rates sweeping the country are a public health crisis. Obesity is associated with Type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, many of the common forms of cancer, and a string of other illnesses. 

“Our own sugar restrictions are delivering good results and as part of the long term plan we are exploring all potential options including very low calorie diets to tackle obesity and Type 2 diabetes.”