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 29.

    Spent some time in hospital a couple of years ago following cancer surgery. The food was bland and tasteless, after one day my wife bought food in for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Last year I spent over 3 months in hospital, the food options were not good, the evening meal was often a sandwich there were no obvious diabetic options on the menu I asked to see a dietitian 5 times but could not get to see one. Getting food brought is only an option if you have visitors that able to come daily, cooking it would be difficult due to microwaves not be allowed in a lot of hospitals

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Well you can't say they don't state the obvious in these articles...

    That most of the worst hospitals are buying in pre-packed slop from third parties over whom they have little control.

    And most of the best hospitals employ cooks to (surprise surprise!) cook...

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    The article is about the fudging of hospital food satisfaction, not what the public should expect?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    @4 Money

    Why does the Hospital provide food?
    We must learnt to bring our own food from our homes...
    Common sense
    Sorry but that is impractical on so many levels!

    Just for starters (excuse pun)

    1. What about those with no relatives to bring food?
    2. Is home food sterile enough after surgery?
    3. How can people cook if they can't get out of bed?
    4. Would everyone have their own chef/fridge?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Good Nutrition (Food) in hospitals is one of the keys to quick and full recovery. Patients need good nutirition to aid recovery from whatever medical reason brought them there in the first place. Whilst food need not be of Michelin quality it needs to be of sufficient quality (choice, temperature, texture, content etc.) to aid recovery and reduce the time patients spend in expensive hospital beds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Must have missed last weeks 'slag off the NHS' report. Still this one makes up for it. My local Hospital provides excellent cooked on site food (One of Keoghs 14) but the massive University/Training Hospital a few miles away use bought in chilled food which is terrible. I still believe in the NHS and will fight to the death to prevent privatisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    If you are talking about outsourcing food, how many Companies that have Canteens actually prepare their own food. Airlines don't for a start nor do Railways nor do a lot of Asian Restaurants whose takeaway food is prepared at home and frozen. The clue is when frozen food is microwaved you get a high grease content left. One reason brown bags are often used.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    What do you expect? The food's not great, but it's not too bad either. It's sufficient. When using state-run facilities, you can't expect top quality. What next? Complaining that your private room doesn't have a 4-poster bed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I don't think hospitals should be serving food anyway. They are a place to recover and look after the sick. If you're well enough to eat without assistance then I'd suggest that a valuable hospital bed for someone who actually needs it is being wasted. Eating isn't too important. You can survive without for a while.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Last time I was in hospital, Kings Mill, Sutton-in-Ashfield, I ate every mouthful of every meal that I was served and rated it better than some pub meals that I've had. Maybe the smaller portions aren't liked by the over eaters?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    If all you have got to worry about when interacting with the NHS is the quality of the food then you are very lucky.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Another day, another BBC editorial trumpeting the Jeremy Hunt line that the NHS is failing. Which is of course designed to soften us up for the prospect of NHS privatisation.

    Whatever happened to the BBC's editorial independence ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I was in hospital for five days last year. The food was perfectly OK - I had no complaint with it all.

    I think patients expectations are too high - they can eat restaurant quality food when they're in a restaurant, but a hospital is there to make people well, not give them gourmet meals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Although I would appreciate restaurant style food, I'm sure the £2 per head budget can't stretch that far, so we should be glad to get anything, that more than some around the world.

    Non-story for a non-issue. Give us some real news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Re - 7.
    Colin Sutton
    3 Minutes ago

    Hospitals are medical centres, NOT restaurants.
    I just wonder what some patients are actually expecting?

    Perhaps food that can be identified by sight and is hotter than 20 degrees...

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    "Hospital food isn't that great. Solution = privatise the NHS."

    It's still not working, Beeb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Look I do not mean to be rude, but why is this story just about England's Hospitals, after all the NHS maybe devolved, but the food and drink industry, supply chain etc... is NOT, It is time that the food and drink industry is given a collective slap around the back of the head and told to buck up it's idea's and for the NHS (UK) to do so also. the same for schools, Colleges etc...Would also apply

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I was recently in hospital where, on seeing the menu options, found that as a vegetarian my choices were limited to veg side dishes. Plenty of sugary puddings though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    This sounds like the ingredients for a terminally bad joke.....


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