High sugar soft drinks such as Coca Cola and Pepsi will be phased out of vending machines in Morecambe Bay hospitals.
Restaurants and coffee shops at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Queen Victoria Hospital in Morecambe, as well as Furness and Westmorland General Hospitals, will also no longer stock high sugar drinks from this week in direct response to government obesity warnings.
University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) will still stock diet versions however, which contain the sugar substitute aspartame, considered by some doctors to be one of the most dangerous food additives on the market.
The trust said it used NHS guidance which states that aspartame is in fact safe to consume.
Fresh juice and water will also be on offer.
Jackie Daniel, chief executive of UHMBT said: “As healthcare professionals, we know what a healthy diet should consist of, but we also know in modern life, it is really difficult to find the time to get the balance right.
“As NHS organisations, I believe we should act as role models wherever we can for our local populations.
“Therefore, I am pleased to announce that as part of our ‘Flourish’ campaign, over the next two months, we will be removing all soft drinks from sale in our hospitals that contain high levels of sugar.
“It is all about moderation and yes, there are many other things we sell which can contribute to ill health, however, it is a start and over time, we will need to look at these other areas too.
“We can’t honestly, on one-hand, tell our patients and staff to cut down on sugar and other foods, then on the other hand profit from selling it to them - it’s time to change. Being overweight not only puts a strain on our bodies, but also puts a huge strain on the resources of the NHS.”
Obesity has been on the rise in the UK for a decade or more now.
It is proven that eating too many foods and drinks high in sugar can lead to weight gain and related health problems, including tooth decay.
According to a recent Public Health England report, ‘Sugar Reduction, the evidence for action’, almost 25 per cent of adults, 10 per cent of four to five year olds and 19 per cent of 10 to 11 year olds in England are obese, with significant numbers also being overweight.
Dr David Walker, Medical Director, UHMBT, commented: “As well as being a doctor involved in Public Health for most of my working life, I am also a father, and I have been really shocked over the years at the ‘hidden’ high levels of sugar in our diets. Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, which in turn, increase your risk of health conditions such as heart disease. For a healthy, balanced diet, we should get the majority of our calories from other kinds of foods, such as starchy foods and fruits and vegetables, and only eat the sugary foods occasionally.
“I believe we owe it to the next generation to get it right now. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, making them more prone to a range of serious health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes. There are now 2.5 million people suffering from Type 2 diabetes, 90% of whom are overweight or obese.
“Removing high sugar soft drinks from being on sale in our hospitals is just the start, and I hope that other health and care organisations follow our lead. We aren’t saying you can’t treat yourselves, but there does need to be a balance.”
Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “It’s great to see hospitals seizing the initiative to promote the health and wellbeing of both staff and patients - they’re blazing a trail for all the rest of the NHS.”
In March 2016, UHMBT launched ‘Flourish’ - an ambitious campaign to improve the health and wellbeing of its workforce. The first stage of the campaign was entitled ‘move more’, creating opportunities and sharing advice on the health benefits of being more active. The next stage is ‘nourish’, which is concentrating on the importance to health of a nutritious diet. The campaign will move through two other phases in the year, looking at mental health in the autumn and winter, before moving on to the importance of having a healthy heart in the New Year. For more information, visit https://www.uhmb.nhs.uk/flourish/.