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NHS to Combat Obesity by Introducing Sugar Tax in Hospitals

The NHS is to introduce a 20 per cent tax on all sugary drinks and food served in English hospitals and health centre cafes by 2020.

NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, who has labelled obesity as “the new smoking,” said hospitals across England will begin charging extra for high-sugar items on sale in cafes and vending machines in a bid to discourage staff, patients and visitors from buying them.

In a move that will make the NHS the first public body in the UK to implement a sugar tax, Mr Stevens said he was introducing the levy as the NHS’s 1.3m staff had a “responsibility” to lead by example.

“All of us working in the NHS have a responsibility not just to support those who look after patients but also to draw attention to and make the case for some of the wider changes that will actually improve the health of this country.”

The tax will be enforced on a rolling basis as hospital shop and catering contracts come up for renewal over the next three to five years. It is expected to raise up to £40m a year – money that will be used to improve the health of the NHS’s workforce.

The proposal comes soon after David Cameron changed his stance and announced that he would no longer oppose the idea of a national sugar tax. The Government’s policy unit continues to finalise what measures their forthcoming childhood obesity strategy will include.

In October, a Public Health England report made a number of recommendations that included a tax of between 10 and 20 per cent on high-sugar products as part of a package of urgently needed measures needed to reduce national sugar consumption.

Poor diet has now surpassed smoking as the leading cause of lifestyle-related avoidable illness in England, with current obesity rates now costing the NHS more than £5bn a year and affecting a quarter of young children, a third of 11-15 year-olds and two-thirds of adults.

It is fantastic to see the NHS leading by example with the introduction of this tax and it is measures like this that will hopefully urge ministers to take more radical action against obesity. Repeatedly consuming more sugar than we need can lead to excessive weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

The widespread availability of two-for-one deals on calorie-laden foods on the high street as well as the frequently aggressive marketing of high-sugar products to children on TV and online is simply wrong and is something the Government urgently needs to clamp down upon.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, the battle against soaring obesity rates and the associated dramatic rise in the number of people living with diabetes must begin with a concerted drive in schools to educate young people about the benefits of eating healthily and the numerous adverse consequences of eating poorly.

There are now more than 4m people living with diabetes in the UK and the majority of these cases relate to Type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked with excess weight. If Type 2 diabetes is badly managed it can lead to a host of complications that include heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and amputations due to foot problems linked to poor circulation.

The total number of diabetes-related amputations continues to rise and, at present, almost 140 patients undergo an amputation every week in the UK as a direct result of diabetes-related complications such as foot ulcers caused by raised blood sugars.

This is a huge problem.

Rabia Ibrahim is a clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon in London.

If you have suffered an amputation as a result of a delay in managing a diabetes-related complication such as a foot ulcer due to medical negligence, call Slater and Gordon for a free consultation on 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.

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