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 69.

    It makes my blood boil. Just who do these people think they are? They should rate the NHS on it's ability to make you better if you are ill. Hospital food by nature has to be bland, it does not have to have a Michelin Star.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    If the government continually run the NHS into the ground services provided will suffer.
    Of course the meals may be perfectly OK and this is a propaganda piece.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    My wife was in a hospital last year....the food was the worst I have encountered anywhere. Worse than the worst restaurant. Good food aids recovery, poor food delays recovery.
    The NHS will save money in the long run (from faster patient recovery) by providing food that can actually be eaten.

  • Comment number 66.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    When my mother has been in hospital, she soon learnt that you never criticised anything or you were labelled a troublemaker and the staff made your life a misery. So don't believe any of their 'client' satisfaction surveys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    I had the misfortune of having a 5 day stay at the Derby Royal and the food was disgusting ,
    most of the meals were inedible,I had a bowl of minestrone soup that was like jelly.
    none of the food was prepared on site so into the micro wave it went.
    I chose to live on toast or cheese and biscuits for most of my stay.
    whoever thought up the meal regime and logistics needs sacking.
    it was the worst

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Let's sort out the quality of care before we sort the food in that order.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    The food in hospital is abysmal, it could not be worse if they designed it to be so - tepid, cheap slop. I don't expect restaurant food as mentioned by many but I do expect reasonable quality and nutritious. I had to resort to eating from the vending machines, sweetie trolley ect and I still lost a good amount of weight which n my case is probably good, but for a frail older chap...

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Let me guess, the food is outsourced, ie, privatised. And like many things privatised, they are done down to a price, not up to a standard.

    It's the same story every single time profit is there to be made. No exceptions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Jamie's next series, I'm thinking. Hospital food should really be highly nutritious as it's part of the process of getting better, and there's no excuse to serve up junk. The practice of using outside catering companies should be halted immediately.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    ichabodre 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

    It is obvious that you have not read the comment fully or understood even the part you have pasted

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    46. Truth logic sustainability the final frontiers
    Very much in agreement, but would be good to know if that £2.60 is just the budget for food or if it includes all the other ancillaries that you mentioned.

    If the NHS can produce good quality food then I would expect a private company to produce mediocre food for less and pocket the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    re 41 I would imagine that good nutrition would improve recovery and therefore discharge rates?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I'm actually disgusted by the comments that are on this article!! People who go into hospital don't go in by choice! People who end up in prison do so by choice... so why are people in prison getting better food than a patient in a hospital! Majority of the people who go in hospital have most probably worked all there adult life!! They deserve to be treated better, they've paid enough tax for it!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Where's Jamie Oliver when you need him?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    The food may be rubbish but what do you expect?! A Michelin star chef in every A&E? Just accept it, the likelyhood is that you're only in there for a day out two! What is more worrying is the fact that most NHS workers are themselves over weight. It really is a diabolical sight and a terrible example coming from people who should be in the know when it comes to matters relating to healthy eating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    The NHS, like the Armed Forces, is all about feeding a person at the cost of £X per day. So whatever it is you are eatingis done to drive costs down, recovery doesn't seem to come into it.

    One of the many joys of living in a backwards country

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    I went to a posh restaurant yesterday and the waiter did a lousy job of my tonsilectomy. Not happy at all.

    Rissotto was lovely though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    My father has been in and out of hospital for the last 18 months, more in than out. I have seen what has been served and he has confirmed that it is tasteless and bland and often left because of its lack of appeal. Moreover, often what he was given was not what he ordered and heaven forfend if he was asleep, in which case he was never woken and went without on numerous occasions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    31. ichabod
    Can't work out why people in hospital can't pay a contribution for ordinary food.
    Seems alright in theory... but if the person can't work to earn money because of being in hospital and doesn't get sick pay then they might find it difficult to pay for hospital food. I am lucky because I've never stayed in hospital, but I don't mind my taxes going to help others less fortunate.


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