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 49.

    Before I left the UK, my father (now deceaced) was in The Royal Free, one of his neighbours told one the nurses, while holding a tray of food "Look at this, I thought your job as a hospital was to make me better, not kill me!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Almost all catering in NHS Hospitals is done private xompanies who do not get the best products for the best prices locally.
    When recovering in Hospital good food is also apart of the recover, poor food, poor recovery

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    "Data from the Care Quality Commission shows that 12 of the 20 hospitals serving the worst food use meals prepared by private catering companies. But 14 of the 20 hospitals with the best food employ catering staff who prepare and cook the food from scratch."
    If we can believe those figures - I always wonder these days - then it says don't outsource, and cook from scratch. Who'd have thought it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.


    Economies of scale enable such low cost.

    Take away kitchen investment & equipment & maintenance costs, labour costs, energy & insurances & it leaves much less than £2.60 to be spent on food per person per day.
    Some good hospitals prove much better can be achieved in house. Out of house catering includes profits for catering companys & also transport costs which eat into quality

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    @12 Myself

    The Food chain and devolution

    FARMS, GROWERS & FISHERIES etc...both Foreign and domestic as a collective....
    FOOD Companies like Kellogg's, Heinz, Findus as example's
    Food Wholesalers
    Individual NHS trust's / Boards / Hospitals< This is at which point Devolution kicks in the food chain is not devolved so the article should include devolved areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    When I had my first baby I had to stay in hospital for 6 nights following a caesarean section. I was a breastfeeding mother and I was vegetarian (now vegan) and I have never been so ravenous in my life. My evening meal one night was one disgusting egg and onion sandwich and an orange. I staggered out into the hall every evening desperate for toast when I heard the tea trolley coming around!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    re 28 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

    Microwaves? Be sensible. You are talking about an institution that still barely recognises that email exists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I recently stayed in hospital and the food was tasteless and bland.

    I wasn't expecting anything special, far from it.

    Edible would of been acceptable .

    When offered a meat dish I asked for a veggie alternative , the reply was -

    'There's tuna sandwiches'

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Surely the object of a hospital is to give the best possible medical care they can with the resources available,not try to get a michelin star.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Another NHS 'horror' story to soften us up as privatisation goes ahead. Same tactic with every Tory reorganisation, ie shifting of public money to private pockets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    They're hospitals, not hotels. The food is nourishing and nutritionally intact and there appropriate to aid with healing. If people want Michelin stars, they they're going to be disappointed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    £2.60 budget and award-winning? When the NHS becomes privatised I would imagine that budget dropping to £1.60 and deal with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Why does the Hospital provide food?

    We must learnt o bring our own food from our homes, that is certainly how it should be as many countries in Africa, that way serve the monies for drugs, salaries etc?

    Common sense¿?
    Money? Sounds like you know the price of everything and the value of nothing!

  • 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

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Sorry, isn't it/hasn't it always been a running joke that Hospital food is bad?

    What do people expect? It isn't a restaurant, you don't go there for fun.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    If you want to see the principle flaw in the NHS simply take note of the importance in places upon nutrition. The foundation of health and wellbeing is good nutrition yet our medical profession is set upon a course of increased pharmaceutical and surgical intervention either ignoring or being ignorant to the copious research relating to nutritional and lifestyle intervention and disease prevention

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    There is no reason why best practise is not repeated accross the whole spectrum of public service, just as it is in business.

    How is it that some NHS hospitals serve up crud for £2.60 a day yet others can provide such improved quality for same cost.

    There needs to be a fast track system that ensures quality/standards in all areas are rolled out within ALL public service

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Can't work out why people in hospital can't pay a contribution for ordinary food. Obviously not if in intensive care etc but if on a normal diet and recuperating - you would pay to eat in your own home, so why not in hospital? This could increase the overall quality, I suspect few spend only £2.60 a day on food in their own homes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Last time i was in hospital my three main meals granished me two of my 5 fruit and veg a day

    I am a vegetarian as well
    It was pretty poor but at £2.60 per day it would seem clear what the main problem is


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