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 129.

    Maybe they should put some of the military chefs that have been made redundant in to hospital to improve the taste and food does not have to be bland to be healthily as you can uses herbs and spices for flavour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    A BBC Radio 5 Live DJ/presenter more or less cut off a member of public who said on a phone-in this morning that private caterers are ripping off the NHS.

    The BBC isn't revealing how much NHS catering is outsourced to private companies.

    They should.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    We hav'nt ALL got friends & relatives to take in decent,nutritious,attractive food,indeed even if we have got relatives & friends they may live to far away or be unable to come often enough.
    Why should anyone have to pay twice?
    What next,laundry bills,electric,water when you stay?
    Not everyone can afford to buy one-off meals from outside daily
    It's 2013 why is it so hard to serve up decent food?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    The problem is that the NHS, like many government organizations, tend to give the job to the lowest bidder, which can lead to a vast difference in quality up and down the country depending on the quality of the company that is doing the catering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Another pop at the NHS.

    oh look underfunded, badly managed NHS under performing.

    No S|_||↑!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Part of the problem, I suspect, is that looking at the demographic of the average patient (I've worked in a hospital in Winchester and it's true even there) a lot of them don't normally eat fresh vegetables and actual meat in their day to day life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Given that malnutrition is an element of the problem in a lot of hospital admisions, particularly but not exclusivly the elderly, decent food is as important a basic as cleaning and laundry.

    Unfortunatly it is nowhere as interesting doing 1 handed combined heart and toe transplants and the like so is easily ignored by doctors that by their nature are ambitious and creative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    I was recently in hospital for a week at East Surrey Hospital and the food was good> a great improvement on the last time I was in another hospital.
    Well done East Surrey

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Prisons and schools have minimum food standards? Why not hospitals.

    And the people who are saying "Don't moan it's free" are wrong, we do pay for it.

    Also the problem with the meals is not the unappetising presentation it is that they are full of salt and sugar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    I spent 10 days in the Edinburgh Western General Hospital, my food was edible and tasty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I spent a month at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton. The food was unappetizing and lukewarm, to say the least. No fresh fruit to be had at all. The first morning I was in they brought me porridge, but put it out of my reach and 20 mins later took it away again! I didn't expect gourmet, but edible would have bee nice. At least when I left I was a size 10 - haven't been that for years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    If the popularity was the only concern then most hospitals would be serving burgers and chips. As long as the food is nutritious and filling then it is fit for purpose. It is impossible to please everybody when it comes to food, especially those with overblown expectations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    I spent 17 nights in hospitals last year and the food was appalling. The I discovered the halal menu and stuck with that throughout the rest of my sojourn. Infinitely better and suprisingly edible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Will the people complaining be willing to pay up for better food? NHS provide quality service and I have always had very good experience at my local hospital. The staff are hard working and dedicated.
    Maybe NHS should 'approve' some local restaurants for providing healthy food and charge these people money on top for ensuring quality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    As long as the veg are not over cooked and the nutrition is there then thats what matters! hospitals are not restaurants. Yeah it may not look 5 star but then its not suppose to food for health not for how it looks in hospitals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Probably depends just a tlittle on your definition of 'good'.
    For me, personally, good would mean - to my liking.
    Nutritional value, freshness of ingredients or whether in Cordon Bleu Cookbook would be irrelevant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    1st world problems

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    How about a BBC article in praise of the many great things that the NHS does ?

    No, the BBC would rather denigrate the NHS. Jeremy Hunt must be pulling the strings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I was in Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford a while back. Their food was excellent. Tasty, nutritious and well presented with lots of options. It looked nothing like the photo you have up. Not all hospitals are the same. Oh, let's not forget he excellent medical care as well...you know, the MAIN aspect of being in hospital!

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.



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