It seems increasingly likely that the UK government will ultimately attempt to introduce some form of sugar tax, at least according to the recent policy of NHS England.
Hospitals are being ordered to remove adverts and price promotions for unhealthy food in hospitals and other health centres from next month.
In addition, trusts that intend to acquire money to assist with encouraging staff to adopt healthy lifestyles will be forced to submit information on fast-food franchises, vending machines and other retail outlets on their sites.
It is believed that this will play a significant role in helping a sugar tax to be implemented in roughly April 2017.
And although the government has placed its cards very close to its chest on the issue, it is generally considered that a 20% tax is ultimately likely.
Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, has announced that £600 million of funding will be diverted to hospitals and other trusts in order to fund the initiative, and that certain conditions will be attached to the award of this funding.
The package includes schemes to increase the number of staff walking and cycling to work, and will also provide more opportunities for other physical activity, including team sports, fitness classes and running clubs.
But trusts will need to prove that they are deserving of the money, and that they are making sufficient efforts to ensure that nutritious food is served on their premises.
Commenting on the issue, Stevens suggested that nutrition is a key aspect of overall health, and that employees across the NHS should be encouraged to make healthy and sensible choices.
“A good place to start is by tackling the sources of staff sickness absence, including mental health and musculoskeletal injuries, while doing our bit to end the nation’s obesity epidemic by ditching junk food and sugary drinks in place of tasty, healthy and affordable alternatives. If we can do this well, we hope that more parts of the public and private sector will see the sense of it and also take the plunge.”
Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, welcomed the initiative and suggested that it was an example of the NHS practising what it preaches on the subject of diet and health.
“The NHS stands to pick up the tab for our obesity crisis, so it is welcome and apt that it should set a strong example when it comes to tackling obesity among its own staff. There is much in this initiative that the government can and should take heed of when it comes to delivering its own obesity strategy, especially the emphasis on delivering financial incentives and environmental changes, rather than expecting education alone to do the trick.”
Over 60% of adults in the UK are currently overweight according to the latest statistics, and this figure could reach 70% by 2030 based on current trends.