Hospitals will be banned from selling sugary drinks and high calorie snacks next year unless action is taken to drastically cut their sales, health officials have said.
Under a national plan, retailers including Marks & Spencer, WH Smiths and Subway have agreed to cut sales of sweet drinks to a maximum of 10 per cent of their drinks output.
The stringent rules will 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.
England will be just the second country in the world to introduce such a plan, with Portugal taking pioneering action last year.
Baker Greggs has also signed up to the plan, along with Medirest which supplies hospitals with ready meals and uses suppliers such as Costa and Starbucks.
Britain's obesity levels are the second highest in Europe, second only to Hungary
NHS England said all sugary drinks will be banned if the voluntary target is not met within 12 months.
The new rules will also heavily restrict the sale of any high calorie foods.
From next April 60 per cent of sandwiches and pre-packed meals on sale in hospitals must contain a maximum of 400 calories per serving – rising to 75 per cent of cases a year later.
And 60 per cent of sweets and chocolates sold must not exceed 250 calories – rising to 80 per cent of items by 2019.
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.
At a glance | Salt, sugar and fat – max daily intake
The Government's new sugar levy will come into force in 2018
"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."
Subway has already removed all high sugar drinks from its stores, in a trial to see how customers respond if they are only offered drinks with reduced or zero sugar.
Katherine Button, the co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: "We are delighted that NHS England has taken such decisive action to reduce the sale of sugary drinks in hospitals.
"NHS hospitals are trusted by patients, families and staff to keep them fit and well and NHS England is helping everyone to take a big healthy step in the right direction."
Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has set out plans which could see a ban on sugary drinks being sold on hospital premises if voluntary action fails
Almost 700,000 of the 1.3 million people employed by the NHS are thought to be overweight or obese.
Health officials have previously announced measures to improve healthy eating in hospitals, including axeing deals on sugary drinks as well as those for salty, fatty or sugary foods.
Retailers have also been told to remove these foods from checkouts, while healthy food should be made available at all times, including to staff working night shifts.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: "As a nation, we’re consuming too much sugar.
"This can lead to weight gain and in turn increase our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
"It’s great news that NHS England is leading by example and taking this step to make hospitals healthier places for all of us."
How much sugar is in the food and drink you consume?
He said people with diabetes, who sometimes need sugary drinks to quickly raise their blood sugar levels, would still have access to them.
Rachel Clark, Health Promotion Manager at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “Sugary drinks are a big contributor to the nation’s obesity epidemic and they contain little nutritional value.
“With 62 per cent of English adults being overweight or obese, it is encouraging to see NHS England taking steps to reduce sugary drink consumption across England. Hospitals should be leading by example to make the healthier choice the easy choice.
“Being overweight or obese increases the risk of a number of different health conditions, including 11 common cancers."
About | The sugar tax
The Government is introducing a sugar tax from next April on the producers and importers of soft drinks with added sugar.
Drinks with 5g of sugar per 100ml will face a lower rate of tax ,while those with more than 8g per 100ml will face a higher rate. These rates have not yet been set.
Ministers have come under repeated fire for not going far enough to tackle obesity, with charities saying a childhood obesity strategy published last year does not go far enough to restrict marketing and advertising of such foods.
Retailers should cut sales of sugar drinks to 10 per cent or less of their total drinks sales by next April – or face a ban
60 per cent of chocolate and sweets sold in shops should not exceed 250 calories – rising to 80 per cent in 2018/19.
60 per cent cent of pre-packed sandwiches and meals should contain less than 400 calories by April 2018, with a maximum of five grams of saturated fat per 100g. This should rise to 75 per cent in 2018/19.