Hospital shops and cafes have been given until the end of the year to reduce their sales of sugary drinks.

NHS England is demanding a reduction in sales of sugar-laden drinks to 10% of all drinks sales in a bid to reduce the nation’s growing obesity epidemic. The stringent rules mean sweet fizzy drinks, coffees made with sugar syrup and fruit juices with extra sugar will be heavily restricted in hundreds of NHS cafes, as well as in staff canteens. The new rules will also heavily restrict the sale of any high calorie foods.

From next April 60% of sandwiches and pre-packed meals on sale in hospitals must contain a maximum of 400 calories per serving – rising to 75% of cases a year later. 60% of sweets and chocolates sold must not exceed 250 calories – rising to 80% of items by 2019.

Retailers including Marks & Spencer, WH Smiths, Greggs and Subway have agreed to cut sales of sweet drinks to a maximum of 10% of their drinks output. Medirest, which supplies hospitals with ready meals and uses suppliers such as Costa and Starbucks, has also signed up to the plan.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down but spoonfuls of added sugar day-in, day-out mean serious health problems. “It’s great that following discussion with NHS England, big name retailers are agreeing to take decisive action, which helps send a powerful message to the public and NHS staff about the link between sugar and obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.”

Almost 700,000 of the 1.3 million people employed by the NHS are thought to be overweight or obese. National chair of the Hospital Caterers Association, Stewart McKenzie, supports the action. He said: “In the last year we have already seen progress being made with hospitals removing price promotions on sugary drinks and snacks and making sure healthy options are available to patients, staff and visitors. “It will be interesting to see how retailers also respond to the further targets for confectionery and pre-packed sandwiches and meals.” For more information visit uploads/2017/04/sugar-action-doc.pdf.