National Health Service (NHS) England is planning to restrict the sale of sugary soft drinks, milkshakes and hot drinks with added syrups at NHS hospital canteens, shops and vending machines this year under the voluntary sugary drinks reduction scheme.

The NHS has warned that if hospitals and suppliers do not comply with the new directives by the end of March this year, a ban will be introduced instead.

“Hospitals should play an important role in preventing obesity, not just treating it.”

NHS England CEO Simon Stevens said: “It’s important the NHS practices what it preaches on healthy food and drink. We want 2018 to be the year when the tasty, affordable and easy option for patients, staff and visitors is the healthy option.

“Many NHS hospitals have answered the call and are taking positive action.”

As part of the new initiative, nearly two-thirds of NHS trusts have signed up for a voluntary scheme to reduce sugary drink sales below 10% of total sold beverages.

National retail outlets WH Smiths, Marks & Spencers, Greggs and the Royal Voluntary Service have also signed up to the scheme.

Public Health England (PHE) CEO Duncan Selbie said: “Hospitals should play an important role in preventing obesity, not just treating it. Plans to offer healthier food and restrict less healthy options are a positive step towards tackling the country’s obesity problem.”

Currently, 141 of 232 NHS Trusts have expressed their willingness to participate in the voluntary scheme, while 91 NHS Trusts are yet to join the scheme to limit the sale of sugary drinks.