NHS England will ban sugary drinks from hospital shops in the next year unless suppliers are able to take voluntary steps outlined by the authorities.
The measures are intended to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks on NHS premises.
Leading retailers have already agreed to cut the proportion of sugary drinks to 10% or less of total sales, according to NHS England.
This is to be achieved in the next 12 months, otherwise the new restrictions will come into place.
NHS England has also pointed to the fact that new national incentives to hospitals and other NHS providers will come into force shortly.
These will ensure that food on hospital premises is improved, dictating that by April next year, 60% of confectionery and sweets stocked do not exceed 250 calories.
This figure will rise to 80% of sweets by April 2019.
Meanwhile, 60% of pre-packed sandwiches and other savoury pre-packed meals must contain no more than 400 calories per serving, while also providing less than 5g of saturated fat in every 100g.
Again, providers will be expected to raise this figure to 75% by April 2019.
Simon Stevens enthusiastically welcomed the new approach.
“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.”
The initiative is particularly intended to address the obesity and diabetes epidemic, with figures indicating that more money is spent on addressing this annually than the police, fire and judicial services combined.
It is currently estimated that around 700,000 NHS staff are either overweight or obese, representing approximately 60% of the overall workforce.
Public Health England has already published guidelines intended to reduce the amount of sugar in nine product categories, with yoghurt, breakfast cereals and biscuits particularly targeted.
The news follows closely on the back of WHSmith, Marks & Spencer, Subway and Greggs all agreeing to cut the proportion of sugary drinks that they sell in their hospital shops in England.
Commenting on the issue, Katherine Button, Campaign for Better Hospital Food co-ordinator, echoed the comments of Stevens, suggesting that the move would be beneficial to both NHS employees and patients.
“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.”
While Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, believes that the impact on diabetes could be particularly critical.
“With this plan, people with type 1 diabetes should still have access to products that are commonly used to treat hypos.”
Since 1996, the number of people living with diabetes has more than doubled, and it is believed that over five million people in the UK will have diabetes imminently.
Public Health England figures for 2015 indicated that 62.9% of adults were overweight or obese (67.8% of men and 58.1% of women).