NHS hospitals accused of 'hiding' food dissatisfaction

Shepherd's pie Some patients have sent photos of meals to the Campaign for Better Hospital Food

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NHS hospitals in England are hiding patient dissatisfaction with the food they serve, campaigners say.

The Campaign for Better Hospital Food said NHS Trusts routinely rated their own food highly.

But patient surveys showed nearly half of people were dissatisfied with what they were offered to eat.

The campaigners want mandatory standards introduced for hospital food, like those which already exist for prisons and schools.

In the past, NHS staff in England have carried out annual assessments of the quality of hospital food.

In 2011 they rated nearly 98% of meals as "good" or "excellent".

The inspection system is now changing, but the Campaign for Better Hospital Food points to a survey of more than 64,000 patients carried out by the regulator, the Care Quality Commission, earlier this year.

In that survey just 55% of patients said the food they had been served was "good".

'Sorry state'

Start Quote

We recognise that there is too much variation across the country”

End Quote Department of Health in England

Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said existing policies that regulate food served in prisons and schools should be extended to hospitals.

"It is time for the government to come clean about the sorry state of hospital food in England and set mandatory standards for patient meals.

"This would only involve extending an existing policy which has seen it set mandatory standards for prison food and food served in government departments, to go alongside those that already exist for school food.

"Surely patients recovering in hospital have the same right to good food as government ministers, school kids and prisoners?"

Campaigners point to hospitals such as Darlington Memorial, where the award-winning food is locally sourced and cooked on site.

Through buying in bulk and cutting down on waste, the hospital manages to stick to a very tight budget of around £2.60 per patient per day.

Inside Darlington Memorial Hospital's award-winning kitchen

Patient Concern called the findings "shocking".

It called for protected cash for hospitals to be spent on better meals.

Roger Goss, co-director of Patient Concern, said: "If managements are deliberately misleading us on hospital food, on what else are we being misled? Patient safety? Quality of care?"

In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Health in England said there were many examples of good food across the NHS.

"But we recognise that there is too much variation across the country - that is why we have implemented a tough new inspection programme.

"We support the principle of food standards but do not think that legislation is the right way to proceed.

"We believe that the best decisions on hospital food are those taken locally by chefs and catering managers."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    I spent nearly a week in hospital a few years ago. The food was average, small portions. But it was what expected for free food.

    If patients want more choice then they should have to pay for that choice, after all it is taxpayers paying for tens of thousands of meals a day

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Prisoners and schools are regulated under a quality of care for the food they receive.

    It is perverse that the most ill in our society, who have to remain in the care of a hospital for the good of their own health, are not protected in this way, especially given that a nutritional diet can only aid recovery.

    Decent NHS meals need not cost any extra, catering suppliers should be held to account

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    I spent several weeks in hospital last year. As a vegetarian there was only one item at each meal I could choose.The hospital relied on microwaves to heat up ready meals. They did not look appetising. I relied on family and friends to bring in food I wanted to eat. I was fortunate in being able to do this - not everyone can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    It makes my blood boil. Just who do these people think they are? They should rate the NHS on it's ability to make you better if you are ill. Hospital food by nature has to be bland, it does not have to have a Michelin Star.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    The only requirement is that the food is nutritionally healthy, hospitals are meant to help you get better, not provide you with quality food. If you want a meal which will get you by, it's fine. If you want a well presented appetizing meal that's delicious, ask a relative to cook/buy something - hospitals get the job done


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