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 189.

    Comment number 69 is an Editors' Pick
    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.

    Theres no need for it to taste like a recycled Michelin tyre.

    Is Editor as ignorant as the comment

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Hospitals are not restaurants, but they should provide 'decent' food, as part of their responsibility and part of the care they provide.

    It should be the norm that they cook from scratch. Any chef worth the title should be able to turn out a decent meat and two veg meal, surely?

    And this looks like another of those stories where some are saying stats show everything's fine, and others don't...

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    Having had the misfortune to have suffered the fare on offer in NHS hospitals, on a number of occasions over the years and in my experience the low standard of the catering is hardly a recent phenomenon.. I am aware of pressures on NHS budgets which ensure that cosst for feeding of patients is kept at a bare minimum.often result in food, being of such poor quality that it is virtually inedible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    20. Fernando Alonso Fan 85
    Eating isn't too important. You can survive without for a while."

    Part of the recovery process is to build up your strength again, which includes getting nutritious meals. Claiming that eating isn't important makes you sound like you have an eating disorder!

    Also, it's mass catering. Economies of scale make individual meals cheaper.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I had 2 weeks in hospital.The food was just like the school dinnwers of the 50s. I loved it. Plain,simple and good.Well don QE2 Kings Lynn.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    I am surprised no one has asked this question.

    Why are prisoners given better food than hospital patients?

    Give the prisoners bowls of slop and the money saved goes to the NHS for better and more nutritious food.

    That will give the prisoners an incentive not to re-offend!

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    I spent 3 days in hospital in July. The food was from the hospital's "award winning kitchens". Not sure who voted for this award.
    Have some patients been in so many hospitals that they can rate the food in each? Or does a group of people go around all hospitals judging the food?
    By the way, the food was adequate and I would have no complaints

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    I am always surprised that hospital food is free. After all I would still eat if I were ill or convalescing at home. The state does not cook my meals in these circumstances. The average cost of a hospital meal is £2.60 per day - if this sum were charged to patients it would probably still be cheaper than eating at home! And it may help the NHS to provide the food quality now expected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    During two lengthy hospital stays in 2009 the food I was served was really very, very good and there was a wide selection.

    Far, far better than I remember during childhood stays.

    Clearly not everyone's experience has been as satisfactory as mine...

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Why bother with all this choice, how about some highly nutritionally rich paste/gruel. Can either be served like porridge, broth or hardened into bars. No messing around with peoples tastes and all the nutritional needs ticked. Easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Not all hospitals served bad food. My brother has had the misfortune to spend 6 months in 3 hospitals this year. 1 of them had great food.
    What needs to be published is a name and shame list.
    You don't need people writing standards - that will just cost £££s which would be better spend on providing food & improving systems to reduce waste.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    Yet another story of NHS failuer BBC.

    In the interest of balance I demand to see stories of the many success of the NHS but somehow I won't hold my breath.

    The BBC is clearly now run by the same for-profit entities that caused the Credit crunch and are now baying for the complete privatisation of every remaining public asset.

    How about pursuing the off-shore accounting, corporate theft etc..

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    'Must have missed last weeks 'slag off the NHS' report'

    It is this head in the sand attitude that has led to the deterioration of the NHS. To improve valid criticism must be taken on board. To take a political stance and reject attempts at reform is not helping the NHS staff or patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    What do the people who prepare this food think about their culinary skills?
    It sounds to me some of them should be sacked, this has to be basic inability to provide a service for a customer going horribly wrong.
    If its not them then alternative suppliers should be sought to replace the existing ones.
    But probably a combination of both!

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    At my local hospital the food is really good, and the management should be congratulated. Pity about the healthcare side though......

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Oh for heavens sake, stop griping about the grub.

    Don't like it? Then get your family to bring it in for you at visiting time, and perhaps some clean linen while they are at it.

    It's a bloody hospital not a bed, breakfast AND and an evening meal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    I spent several weeks in hospital last year. As a vegetarian there was only one item at each meal I could choose.The hospital relied on microwaves to heat up ready meals. They did not look appetising. I relied on family and friends to bring in food I wanted to eat. I was fortunate in being able to do this - not everyone can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    161 JamesStGeorge
    "most choose to eat as they like",not from the long faces I see around the supermarkets or at check-outs
    We must move in different circles,my point was whether it was "green" or not it needs to be of a good quality and look attractive.
    "Not a price issue"is that why all the trusts have such a long tender process an award it to the cheapest?
    Agree with you about "junk",but define

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Hospital food needs to be edible and geared towards what the patients can eat. It's no good putting Beef Wellington on the menu and offering it to a ward full of coeliacs. You really need lots of little kitchens dotted around a hospital, each catering for the patients nearby, but that would work out too expensive. The food needs to be appetising as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    I refused to eat in my local hospital as the food is so bad i beleive it would make me ill,
    Salty brown rubbery mess which was supposed to be cottage pie, poached fish so hard i thought someone had lost the insole of thier shoe
    Requests for diabetic food to be told they have run out and offered sugery alternatives
    I dont expect michelin level food but i do expect food that people can actually eat


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