Celebrity chefs 'have failed to improve NHS food'


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The government has wasted more than £54m on "failed" schemes to improve hospital food, according to the food and farming pressure group Sustain.

Its report says compulsory nutritional standards are needed to ensure patient meals improve.

It warned there had been little change in the past two decades despite numerous initiatives, many fronted by celebrity chefs.

A health minister said patients were being asked to influence menus.

Broadcaster Loyd Grossman and celebrity chef Albert Roux are among those backing the call for legally binding hospital food standards.

Both have fronted high-profile campaigns to improve hospital food.

The report from the Campaign for Better Hospital Food - which is run by Sustain and backed by 89 organisations - found that since 1992 there had been 21 initiatives to improve patient meals.

Start Quote

It's time for the government to take effective action by introducing mandatory standards for patient meals”

End Quote Alex Jackson Campaign for Better Hospital Food

But the schemes failed because they relied on hospitals to voluntarily adopt their recommendations, the report concluded.

At a cost of more than £54m, the money wasted was equivalent to 34 new hospital kitchens, it said.

The group claimed the government had ignored at least 14 warnings from government advisers, MPs, commercial caterers, and health, environmental and animal welfare organisations that voluntary initiatives to improve hospital food were failing.

'Meetings, speeches, gimmicks'

It wants to see food-based standards in line with those introduced in schools in England in 2006 in all UK hospitals in the next 18 months.

Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: "This report must serve as a lesson to Jeremy Hunt that simply publishing recommendations for the improvement of hospital food isn't good enough, as every one of his predecessors in the last 20 years has found out.

"It's time for the government to take effective action by introducing mandatory standards for patient meals."

Loyd Grossman, who led the Better Hospital Food initiative between 2001 and 2006, said although his team had a number of successes, their efforts were hampered by a lack of political will.

"There has not yet been a noticeable change in the way hospital food is produced, prepared, cooked and served."

Albert Roux, who was asked in 1995 by the Department of Health to give his opinion about how to improve hospital food, added that "meetings, speeches and gimmicks" do not work.

"What we need now is change to the whole hospital food system, starting with the introduction of food standards for every patient meal."

Health Minister Dan Poulter admitted that schemes based on celebrity chefs had not worked in the past.

"Patients are the ones who consume hospital food and are best-placed to decide what is good and what is not.

"That is why an army of thousands of patient assessors will join a tough new inspection programme starting in April 2013 to drive up standards."

He added that there were many fantastic examples of very good food across the NHS and centrally imposed standards were not the answer.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of The Patients Association, said patients regularly contacted their helpline about poor standards of food in hospital.

"High quality, nutritious food is an essential part of a patient's overall hospital experience. It plays a fundamental role in their recovery and helps them to return home sooner," she said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    235. Bastiat

    If only that were true.

    Greed would guarantee the dead piling up in the streets. Profit above all else with no room for altruism.

    People, and therefor the organisations they control, are inherently greedy.

    Just look at the three monotheistic religions, with their beautiful philosophies about loving and looking after each other. Taken over by greed for power. Capitalism is worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    True. But with the giant monopoly in the market, competition doesn't have a chance... and that's the way many vested interests want it to remain, at any cost it seems: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-21228820

    232.Chungas Revenge
    "Public sector = Welfare of others."
    Why didn't USSR work then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    I now understand Bastiat. He believes in the fringe philosophy of Anarcho-Capitalism. Or in other words, a free for all.

    A viewpoint so far to the right it is meeting extreme communism coming from the other side.

    A system which could only possibly work if humans were perfectly moral and with no self interest. It takes no account of greed, which is the catalyst to its inevitable down fall.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Luckily I had someone to bring in food for me when I had a hospital stay. I remember thinking I was playing safe by ordering a ham sandwich and felt sick when I looked at the meat inside - I honestly would not have given it to my dog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    During my only stay so far in hospital the food was OK but the portions would not have fed a small child. I was so hungry one day I bought a kings size Mars Bar and a Big bag of crisps - things I wasn't supposed to eat. I was over 250 miles from home with only my other half to visit in between having to come home for various reasons. Foreign aid money could be spent in improving the quality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.


    Ooh an answer 1st time ;-)

    I have the sneaking suspicion that hospitals in 1 area would collude so as to set prices - ie form a cartel. This happens now so why you think your utopian ideal would be different is beyind me.

    Or else one provider becomes more successful so buys out other hospitals and we end up with a monopoly.

    Either way I lose

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Excuse me, what on earth are "patient meals"?

    I presume you mean "patients' meals".

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    I have visited and been in hospital for many months at a time and find the main problem is food coming off the trolley cold due to staff not all getting stuck in and serving quickly. Harrogate served good food with go.od selection including vegetarian option and I got mine early in 2007 so was happy.
    Wife was not so lucky, getting cold food 3 years earlier and found it poor.
    LGI Leeds was poor

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    I, as a retired private sector Buyer would love to get involved in some of the deals made in the puplic sector. I would be willing to do it for free.
    I suspect some common scence would not go amis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    118 - I'm not looking to defend anything or anyone. I'm pointing out that I'm sure that there is far bigger wastage elsewhere and whilst we could concentrate on this, how about we devote scarce resources to finding and solving bigger issues than trying to pick up the pennies.

    We'll never stop wastage entirely, but this is modest compared to other areas over 21 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    I'll complete the quotes you purposely didn't.

    1 Supply would almost instantly increase, prices would fall, and a greater variety of health care services would appear...

    2 Competing drug and device manufacturers and sellers, to safeguard against product liability suits and to attract customers, provide increasingly better product descriptions and guarantees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Well said, a sensible solution to the dire quality that blights both hospitals and schools.
    However given the govt don't actually want to be responsible for anything at all I doubt they will adopt this policy, it restricts them from giving juicy profits to their buddies in the Service Industries wether its hospital food, Back to work schemes, translation services, quality comes last.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    I was talking to member of a specialist NHS team on saturday, they have all the kit they need and yet have £300,000 to spend before the end of the tax year, they're buying duplicate kit and storing it? What idiot thinks this is a good idea? There needs to be a radical rethink in how the money is spent, and sections should not be penalised if they don't spend all the money,

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    @222. Bastiat
    ...Afford it can they? Why do trusts across the country need bailouts? Why must we deficit spend to fund it?

    Because of PFI. The biggest con perpetrated by the private sector on the public sector. (Read recent audit).

    Altruism or selflessness is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others.

    Private sector = Profit for self.
    Public sector = Welfare of others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    @227 bastiat
    im afraid that already exists in the england under the badge choose and book. It isnt widely publisised by HCPs and is often abused by patients - ie pt in cornwall has outpatient trip once a month in birmingham (family visit) and gets travel costs paid. the nhs doesnt really want compettiton despite first labour and now the conservatives trying to push it through

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Have to say that the food when I have been in our local hospital in Northampton has been very reasonable. Curry the other day was good. Selection of food brought to A&E to choose from or sandwiches available and offered drinks regularly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Its all about cost and cost alone! How much can be churned out for the least amount of money. I was in hospital for 5 days in oct 2012 and was served `slop`. It was vile and disgusting. I complained serveral times to the staff, and nurses and was told that `someone would be along to talk about it later`... I am still waiting. I hate to think about how much was wasted and ended up in the bin

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Hospital food vile!
    Never heard that before.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Example: you need hip surgery.
    You may be need to stay for days, weeks or even months.
    You shop around & compare your local hospital with ones in neighbouring cities, if smaller clinics don't already offer similar services.

    Based upon this, you could book your operation just as you would a hotel: choosing by preferences for cost/quality/comfort etc.

    Direct enough? :P

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    @219. Bastiat
    the link you supplied.
    Are you serious?
    An extract
    "Eliminate all licensing requirements for medical schools, hospitals, pharmacies, and medical doctors and other health care personnel"

    "Eliminate all government restrictions on the production and sale of pharmaceutical products and medical devices. This means no more Food and Drug Administration"

    Every one will become a victim.


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