Hospital shops agree to reduce access to sugary drinks

NHS England has announced that leading retailers have agreed to continue voluntarily reducing sales of sugary drinks to 10 percent or less of their total drinks sales within hospitals over the coming year.

WH Smith, Marks & Spencer, Greggs, the SUBWAY(r) brand, Medirest, ISS and the Royal Voluntary Service have pledged to cut sales. Remaining hospital shops are now being urged to join the retailers to ensure the NHS leads the way on tackling the impact of the UK’s ‘sweet tooth on public health’.

The news comes as NHS England is introducing new national incentives for hospitals and other NHS providers to go further to improve food on their premises. Progress has already been made in 2016/17 to cut all price promotions on sugary drinks and foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS), end advertisements of these foods on NHS premises, stop sales at checkouts and ensure healthy food options are available at all times, including for those working night shifts.

By April 2018 hospitals must make further efforts, including: ensuring 60 per cent of confectionery and sweets stocked do not exceed 250 kcal, rising to 80 per cent of confectionery and sweets in 2018/19; and making sure 60 per cent of pre-packed sandwiches and other savoury pre-packed meals to contain 400 kcal or less per serving and do not exceed five grams of saturated fat per 100g, moving to 75 per cent in 2018/19.

Commenting, NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, explained: “A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down but spoonfuls of added sugar day-in, day-out mean serious health problems. It’s great that following discussion with NHS England, big name retailers are agreeing to take decisive action, which helps send a powerful message to the public and NHS staff about the link between sugar and obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”

Katherine Button, Campaign for Better Hospital Food coordinator, added: “We are delighted that NHS England has taken such decisive action to reduce the sale of sugary drinks in hospitals. Earlier this year, our Healthy Hospital Food Brand League table showed that when NHS England sets clear targets, and companies are held to account, then hospital food retailers respond.

“The Campaign for Better Hospital Food, an alliance of food, health, patient and NHS staff groups, welcomes this latest move to limit junk food and sugary drinks sales in hospitals. NHS hospitals are trusted by patients, families and staff to keep them fit and well and NHS England is helping everyone to take a big healthy step in the right direction.”

See Katherine Button’s recent contribution to Health Business 17.2 on the current state of hospital food in Britain here, page 87.