The NHS is to impose its own “sugar tax” in hospitals in England to help tackle the growing problem of obesity, the head of the service has said.
Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said hospitals would start charging more for high-sugar drinks and snacks in their cafes and vending machines to deter patients, visitors and staff from buying them.
In an interview with The Guardian, he said the levy – which will be rolled out across the service over the next five years – would raise £20 to £40 million a year, which would be used to improve the health of NHS staff.
“Because of the role that the NHS occupies in national life, 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,” he said.
“We will be consulting on introducing an NHS sugar tax on various beverages and other sugar-added foods across the NHS which would be enforced over time as contracts for food catering and the shops that are in the foyers of hospitals come up for renewal over the next three to five years over a rolling basis.
“It’s not just the well-being of people in this country and our children. But it’s also the sustainability of the NHS itself.”
The move comes after David Cameron signalled that he was prepared to drop his previous opposition to a general sugar tax in the face of what he described as an “obesity crisis”.
The Downing Street policy unit is currently working to finalise the measures to be included in a new childhood obesity task force.