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 65.

    The current economic creed demands that public do things as "efficiently" as the private sector......

    .....that is what we have here.......

    ....anyone who ever claims public = bad, private = good should recognise it is their demands for public to be like private that leads to these cock ups.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    ichabod is absolutely right, why have people marked this comment down - think it through, it is totally logical and fair
    If patients only paid £1 a day it would probably more than double the budget - what is it now, it was something pathetic like 75p. And yes centrally governed standards ARE necessary. MAKE the hospitals sort this out, it is disgraceful

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Surely they realise it's because of outsourcing, right? Tax payer funded/subsidised services should NEVER be profit making exercises for anyone. Use the money to open in house catering services. It'll be cheaper and create jobs which is something we sorely need.

    I strongly believe the country would be a far better place if taxes weren't used to line the pockets of rich people, ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    I look at all the industry that we let the government privatise, Energy, water, telecoms. Each year the companies post silly amounts of profits(that could be in the public coffers), I just hope that they don't do it to the health system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    When in hospital, all most patients want is to be served good, honest, nutritional, tasty food. Why is that so difficult to deliver? Cook the food on-site, it has to be cheaper and buy local produce. I can't for the life of me see why this has to be so hard and so much money wasted...again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Re 42. I suggest you read the article again. It talks of 21 initiatives SINCE 1992 and that will include the Tories as well. Please don't pick out the headline YOU want just so you can bash the BBC. The fact of the matter is that all Govts have failed miserably in this area of care although when I stayed in hospital last year, the food was excellent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.


    "if we want good anything it has to be payed for.There is only so much money "

    £54000000 might help to pay for a few meals, then theres the £500000 pay offs made to whistle blowers to keep them quiet......

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    The steady drip of NHS bad news continues because we are being softened up for the complete privatisation that is imminent. Blair was party to this and now Dave has gone a step further. Very soon the Health Service will be a for-profit organisation. Think of that: your sickness will be a source of profit. Dave's claim to be putting the power in doctors' hands is a fib.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    when ever the goverment takes charge things alweays get worse wil they never learn leve it to those on the scene

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    What a shockingly misleading piece of journalism on a non story !
    "The government has wasted" intentionally implies the current government, when in actual fact it's previous many governments... £54 million over 20 years - so that's 10p from each taxpayer per year.
    "Wasted" - well actually that money mostly made up UK salaries, so hardly wasted in comparison to much government spending...

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    46 bakuboy
    "Over tax and squander, it's what all main stream UK political parties do."

    Fall short on collecting taxes from corporations and offshore accounts - that's what all parties do. With the TRILLIONS owing to us we could solve most of this country's problems, including the NHS, which is struggling to survive under the old Etonian-led cuts

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    If we want good anything it has to be payed for.There is only so much money and whilst we have far to many people on our island and we allow millions of people to(not just foreign illegals) live off the state when they should be working what do people expect.If people aren't forced to earn or pay for ALL benefits and we keep an open border policy we will sink financially and socially.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    "The government has wasted more than £54m on "failed" schemes to improve hospital food"

    Name a singe government scheme that hasn't been an expensive failure. Everything they touch turns to lead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    It is time meals were prepared and cooked on site. This is the only way to improve standards. Bring back the hospital kitchen and stop using fast frozen reheated meals, the only winners are the suppliers. False economy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    If you are well and are living at home you buy your own food. If you are in hospital by definition you do not have to do this.
    So I can't see why as a generalisation patients should not pay a modest contribution for the food they eat - This could fund better meals and of course if patients have to pay, they are more likely to insist over time on better service and quality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    I've been in hospital overnight - 4pm to 11am - without being offered anything to eat, and with only water to drink. - Sorry, meals have already been ordered.
    I fainted while they were releasing me, and had to do some fast talking to prevent them checking me back in. How is this good patient care?
    How hard would it be to have juice and snacks on hand so the patients aren't fainting from hunger?

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    My Dad had an operation in 2006 & was in hospital for 6 weeks

    When he was 4 weeks into his stay & considerably improved he asked for a chinese takeway meal

    I asked the nurse on duty who said it wouldn't be a problem

    The next day a different nurse was so rude and demanded we didn't repeat it

    It was without doubt the best meal he had in the entire 6 weeks & certainly cheered him up a bit

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Why don't they just stop spending money on catering and hire a professional caterer that delivers or several and the customer can pay for it, NHS isn't a bed and breakfast, and have some free options for those who can't afford, or even have family bring them something to eat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The voluntary schemes have proven that it can be done. All that info (costly to gather) is now recorded, it's there, it's not wasted money. Proof is that it CAN be done. The waste is not applying it. But if patients get to choose what kitchens cook, we'll have pizzas, fried chicken, kebabs, Iceland's sumptuous collection as that's what most eat @ home. Let's change it & achieve what Labour didn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Over tax and squander, it's what all main stream UK political parties do.


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