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 89.

    What's the point of giving sick people inedible food? If having visitors helps the patient's healing process, then so, too, must the provision of good food. Can you imagine the disheartening appearance of poor quality food? I've been in both NHS and private hospitals. In the latter, I was served French Onion soup, Spaghetti Bolognese and Rhum Baba. I make no comment other than it being a fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Surprise surprise the privitised catering provided to the NHS puts profits before food quality and nutritional value.
    Well at least Dave's mates are getting paid!

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Those hospitalised to have gastric bands fitted probably rated the food the worst

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Emma Nicholson's husband died because the private hospital he was being treated in was described in a report after his death as being a 1st class restaurant with 2nd class clinical services.
    For me I would rather be treated in a first class hospital & if the food is not of gourmet standards then I am prepared to put up with it.
    I would imagine with hindsight Emma wishes her husband had gone NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    How about a KFC on every ward? I guarantee you the aroma alone will get some of the long time sick up and out of their beds in no time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Having stayed in both English and French hospitals, give me the food from an English one anytime. The French stuff (couldn't even tell what it was meant to be) was appalling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    How anyone can regard this as an attack upon the NHS is beyond me. If you want a great health service this means openness to all aspects including the gagging of staff regarding clinical neglect and patient deaths. The NHS has a £100bn budget and should be winning the war on chronic disease yet is failing even in the basics of nutrition or diabetic assessment - why ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Hospital food is low salt food. Low salt food is under-seasoned. Under-seasoned food is bland. QED.

    So, unless I were admitted for blood pressure or kidney problems (or anything else exacerbated by sodium), I'd just ask a relative to bring me a spare salt cellar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.


    More inteligent than you.
    Correct nutrition & quality food are proven to help the body recover from illness & operations, hence it is a false economy to NHS expenditure to provide sustinance that fails to provide these essentials, resulting in longer stays in hospitals at massive extra cost
    Theres nothing appetising in something that resembles a bowl of sick, or smells like it

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    good food is wasted on the rif raf . my lobster was well cooked and i was served a fine wine at my private hospital. signed a. tory

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    It's even rubbish at eating disorder treatment wards, it's so much harder to get anorexics to eat when even a sane person wouldn't find the food appealing - I think the worst I saw was a vegetarian served cheese/potato/broccoli pie with sides of potato and broccoli.
    You'd think they'd realise it's maybe important but no, the cuts must be made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    I was hospitalized a few years ago ago a very bad shoulder break and dislocation. I'm also diabetic. However, despite telling them this, I was
    given no advice on the meals offered to me, and ended up having to
    stay in for longer after my blood sugars became unstable. They recovered only after I almost starved myself and refused to eat their food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    True, they are not hotels but have any of you who make that comment actually tasted some of this stuff? I have and it's not likely to assist the healing process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    This would be an ideal time for someone to invent the Food Replicator as seen in Star Trek

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Since when did we expect restaurant quality food from hospitals? As far as I'm concerned the NHS are there to treat my illness/injury not feed me high quality meals at the same time. As long as the food is nutritious then that is all I would expect unless I was willing to pay for better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Its extremely simple, private companies job is to provide products and services for the lowest cost to a stated specification or regulation. If there are no standards or regulations they will reduce the quality until customers no longer buy their service. If they don't someone else will out compete them with a cheaper service. The problem is managers don't know standards to state in contracts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Yet another sideways swipe at the NHS. Why don't these untrustworthy politicians/dieticians simply privatise food provision.
    Oh I forgot, they did, and this is what you get.

    Election now

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Of course they're hiding it, they've taken lessons from Local and National Government.

    After all, we can't tell the people the truth can we.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    4 years ago I had a heart attack and was shipped to the local hospital. Treatment was great and the food was quite good, although it did seem to be based around fatty food and jam pie and custard. There were slimmer options but no advice / pressure to have them. Not really what I expected but quite tasty. Last year.. food was poor. Dried up sausage roll for one meal.. nothing else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    ..@63. Armchaircritic.."Let's sort out the quality of care before we sort the food in that order."
    Yes, and let's not forget that while you are eating in hospital, you are not paying for food at home!


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