NHS England is seeking public consultation on whether a ban on sales should be used to reduce consumption of sugary drinks in hospitals.
Chief executive Simon Stevens announced on 9 November that England could become the first country in the world to take action across its health service in this way.
The body has proposed a new fee to be paid by vendors in order to lower sales. A consultation, which will run until 18 January, seeks views on whether hospitals should have an outright ban on the drinks.
Obesity is the most significant self-reported health problem amongst NHS staff, with nearly 700,000 NHS staff estimated to be overweight or obese.
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,” NHS England has said.
With over 1 million patients seen every 24 hours at NHS premises, the proposed ban would affect the public and staff alike.
“The food sold in these locations can send a powerful message to the public about healthy food and drink consumption,” NHS England said.
Responding to the proposed sugar levy across the NHS, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “Sugary drinks while high in calories are of limited nutritional value. With people in the UK already consuming far too much sugar, doctors are increasingly concerned about how sugary drinks contribute towards the growing obesity epidemic and the development of conditions including diabetes; an illness which affects millions of people and costs the NHS a massive £14bn a year to treat – that’s £1.5m an hour.
“The BMA has long called for an end to the sale of all unhealthy food and drink products across NHS hospitals in the UK. It is an encouraging and positive first step for NHS England to deliver on its promise from earlier this year and help to cut obesity and promote healthy diets amongst its patients and staff, by introducing a sugar levy across our health service.”