NHS sugar cut

NHS sugar cut
Phil Shelley, HCA chair
09/01/2017 - 12:07
NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens has decided to stress the ‘health’ in the National Health Service with some eye-catching proposals.

Among other things he has suggested action to cut the sale and consumption of sugary drinks sold to staff and visitors in hospitals.

Under the plans, which are currently out for consultation, he is seeking either to levy a fee paid by vendors on soft drinks sales or an outright ban.

Addressing rising rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes and child dental decay, he says it’s time for the NHS ‘to practice what we preach’.

In his words, ‘we’re now calling time on hospitals as marketing outlets for junk food and fizzy drinks’.

And by ploughing the proceeds of any vendor fees back into staff health and patient charities, he says the proposals offer an opportunity to both improve health and cut future illness cost burdens for the NHS.

It’s a bold idea, though it remains to be seen how much appetite there is for turning it into action.

It’s interesting, too, that his thinking behind the plans is about taking responsibility and exploring how best to reduce obesity and its attendant health risks.

For years such suggestions have quickly drawn fire from those claiming to represent freedom of choice, and the cry of ‘nanny state’ has rarely been far behind.

To my mind educating people to help them adopt healthier diet choices has got to be the long-term answer. But in the short term the economic and social of cost of obesity is already at £27bn and is only going to rise.

In such a context, Stevens’s measures look eminently sensible rather than draconian.

And they are part of the reason he is one of the Top 20 most influential people in public sector catering in 2016. This is a list chosen by independent judges and is exclusively revealed in this issue of Cost Sector Catering. See pages 22-23.