The Health Minister of Wales, Edwina Hart, will today announce a ban on vending machines dispensing crisps, chocolate and sugary drinks in Welsh National Health Service (NHS) hospitals.
The announcement is part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s One Wales strategy to improve food and nutrition in hospitals, and is the first of its kind in the UK.
The Welsh government is to liaise with major vending providers to introduce healthier snacks and drinks, and will issue guidance to the NHS, setting out what exactly will be permitted.
Within six months, the majority of NHS hospitals in Wales will have removed their “unhealthy” vending machines, it is expected. Only one hospital is scheduled not to have “healthy vending” by 2010.
Ms Hart said: “Diet has an important role to play in the prevention of obesity and chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
“We need to create an environment where it is easier for people to make healthy choices and our public sector settings should be an exemplar of best practice, particularly our hospitals.”
A recent study investigating vending machines in or close to paediatric departments in Welsh hospitals found that very few cases, half or more of the drinks sold were deemed healthy, and although a few trusts reported food vending in such areas, none of the machines offered mostly healthy options.
Huw Jenkins, consultant paediatric gastroenterologist at University Hospital Wales, which carried out the above research, said: “It is clear from a recent survey that the majority of vending machines around children’s areas in Welsh hospitals do not provide enough healthy options.
“I fully welcome this timely and important announcement by the Health Minister, Edwina Hart. It will ensure that all vending machines are stocked with healthy options in the future.”