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 125.

    There is no motive to reduce prices for anything. NHS is a cash cow sponsored by the taxpayer so everything, as in the MOD, costs an arm & a leg, while the quality is negligible. My question would be is how procurement has been taken over by mindless drones whose only claim to do the job is the connection to the old boy network. Private companies supplying NHS/MOD hike up the price automatically.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    I think there have been improvements, since the first time I was in hospital, in the 1960s. But I don't think the improvement had come from the initiatives.

    And the idea of asking patients? Might be useful, but you're asking people are ill, not at their best. How well will that work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    The last time I stayed in hospital they kept me nil by mouth the whole 3 days, so never had the chance to try the food. Sadly, the drip they put me on wasn't working properly and they didn't notice even when I was complaining of dizziness etc. Dehydration is a major concern for those with kidney problems and guess what I was in there for! Came out feeling worse than when I went in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    WHAT did they expect???

    Outsource essential services and quality goes down, because someone, somewhere, has to make a profit. A profit that previously was not included in the budget for the service.

    Look what happened when they outsourced cleaning in hospitals. Infection rates went through the roof.

    They should have consulted the department of the blindingly obvious, first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Maybe they should serve school dinners instead of hospital food? The govt could then keep costs down by using the same suppliers for all Govt departments and standardise across the board.

    YOU Govt have the buying power to really make a saving and YOU Govt have departments telling us about nutrition. Bring it all back centrally and stop diluting suppliers/caters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    A hospital stay in two locations, both using the same laundry, budgets etc, produced vast differences in food. One gave reasonable food and the other just beans on jacket potato - every meal until you couldn't eat it any more. Lost 20Kg weight. I am not a fussy eater but have never seen anyone turn perfectly good food into pig swill like that. It's not the budget but the cook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    97 - BadlyPackedKebab. "Bit of both I think". Couldn't agree more! Solution? Absolutely none without democracy! So my perspective is politicians will never change, because the voter supports the failed regime. So, consider a 40% vote which results in more disgusting MP's & 60% who don't vote for various reasons inc loss of faith in politics. My conclusion? 40% is invalid & 60% is democratic view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    1 Minute ago

    Let's get a grip. £54m wasted since 1992?

    The tory is the wasted £54million which could be better spent elswhere, considering this was the supposedly highly efficient near perfect private sectorm providing "the service" who or what are you attempting to defend?

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Another story of wasted money by government? So what's new? If we look back, governments of all colours have continually wasted vast amounts of money for decades in the UK but has anyone every really been repremanded for it? Nothing will change in this country until we stop rewarding faliures in everything!

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Giving people good healthy food will improve there health, is this not the supposed purpose of the National HEALTH Service?? The only way the food is going to improve is if more money spent on it, and that will never happen, they would rather spend 54mil on various schemes to give the impression things are being done & 'changing', as that is less than it would cost to improve the food

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Let's get a grip. £54m wasted since 1992?

    There's about 160,000 hospital beds in the UK (http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/general-election-2010/faqs#beds) and so 3,678 million meals have been served since 1992 assuming 3 meals per day per bed. The "wasted" money equated to 1.4p per meal. There is bigger wastage to worry about than this.

    What's exactly is the story here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.


    Hey Bastiat, you're always harping on about how private is better and cheaper when it comes to healthcare.

    Could you possibly post a few links to private healthcare cover? Not just a bit of cover but ones that will provide ambulances, cover for terminal diseases, and everything else the NHS covers you for?

    I'd be interested to see how much I could be saving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Once again the government stealth privatisation policy is shown for the inefficient, "Politicians mate funding" corruption that it is.

    The catering's been outsourced. I've never known any outsourcing contract actually save money in the long term. All you get is a reduced headcount married up with poor service. This needs to stop before the rest of the UK is outsourced!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Crazy as it may sound I actually look forward to going into hospital because generally I find the food on offer delicious

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I have been unlucky enough to have had @4 stays in hospitals in my lifetime and I have to say I find the food better now than previously.

    On the occasions I have been admitted late in the day the staff have gone and found sandwiches and made tea for me which I really appreciated.

    While I'm sure the food could be better at least it's not as bad as it was.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    What @104 said. Theres no such thing as free nowadays. Its a complete joke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    There is no wherewithal as far as government concern over the NHS.
    All 3 parties want to privatise it so the more vile an experience government can make it whether its food care or medical attention the better as far as they are concerned. People need to wake up to this & vote for NHS candidates at the next elections. The rest will say anything to get elected & then do whatever they first intend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Usual thing, wate money on any old rubbish (giving it to their mates?) rather than just make sure there is good quality monitored food in hospitals!

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    When my wife was in hospital recently, I used to take in food for her. The hospital food wasn't that bad (for mass produced stuff) in my opinion, but the portion sizes were small.

    I'd say there should be an option for patients to pay more to get better/more food, and have that subsidise the patients who can't afford it. The visitor/staff canteen was MUCH better than the patient food...

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Every time I have been in hospital I have tried to get out with in 24 hours so I can avoid meals even when I have had surgery as the meals are so small or so tastless


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