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Diabetes UK welcomes NHS England tax on sugary drinks and snacks in hospitals


The NHS will impose its own tax on sugary drinks and snacks in hospitals, NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens announced today.

Diabetes UK welcomes this brave move by the NHS which will see it place a tax on the sugary drinks and snacks available from the cafes and vending machines in its hospitals across England, in an effort to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles. 

As the first public body in the UK to introduce a tax on sugary drinks and snacks, the NHS will invest the expected proceeds of £20 million - £40 million in improving the health of its own 1.3 million workers.

Stevens has pledged to introduce a sugar levy in hundreds of acute, mental health and community services hospitals by 2020 and every local health centre, with the tax being introduced as contracts for food services are renewed, so that all hospitals will be covered by 2020.

Sugary drinks tax just one of many steps

Placing a tax on sugary drinks is a critical step that Diabetes UK has been calling on the Government to implement, along with a number of other measures, to help tackle the current rise in obesity and  the alarming rise, in turn, of Type 2 diabetes.

Louise Ansari, Director of Prevention of Type 2 diabetes at Diabetes UK, said: “The NHS is taking a brave and much-needed step by introducing its own tax on sugary drinks and snacks in hospitals across England to encourage healthier lifestyles.

“Many people consume far too much sugar, often unaware of the ‘added sugars’ in food and drink. An increasing number of people are becoming overweight, and this in turn is fuelling a dramatic rise in Type 2 diabetes, a serious health condition that can lead to complications including amputations, blindness and stroke and costs the NHS a staggering £10 billion a year.

"Now the government must take urgent action to tackle the nation’s obesity crisis by following in the footsteps of the NHS and introducing a sugary drinks tax across England.

'A tax alone is not enough'

“However a tax alone is not enough. To truly transform the health of the nation the government must also act on recommendations made by Public Health England which include: restricting marketing of unhealthy foods to children, reducing and rebalancing the number of price promotions offered on unhealthy foods, and implementing a clear and transparent programme for reformulating unhealthy foods and reducing portion sizes.

"People must also be supported to undertake regular physical activity and make healthier food choices, including through a clear and consistent food labelling system. Unlike Type 1 diabetes which cannot be prevented and is not linked to diet, being overweight is a key cause of Type 2 diabetes meaning that the condition can be managed, or even prevented, through adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Considering the tax's introduction

“While we fully support the measure, it must be introduced in a way that doesn’t negatively impact on people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and their families who use high sugar products to treat low blood glucose levels.

“The NHS has made a bold move in introducing a tax on sugary drinks and snacks across hospitals. This must be the catalyst for change that is so urgently needed right across the country. Until this happens people will continue to be denied the best possible chance of living long, healthy lives and the already strained NHS budget crippled with avoidable costs.”

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