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 249.

    Poor food is also about the system used. When ward staff get insufficient portions delivered, over or undercooked food supplied and patients' choices are routinely ignored time is taken up correcting these problems. This leaves less time to assist poorly patients with eating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Some years ago I was hospitalised in Lahore with Hepatitis A. This was only for a week until I was well enough to fly home. As here, the treatment was free but the food was superbly cooked vegetarian as requested, and freshly made. It was deliberately low in fat so as not to stress out my liver! Well done Pakistan and 'Thank you'.

    The NHS has much to learn about feeding recovering patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.


    If you're on any benefit, which many people who go into hospital are, your benefits get reduced because stuff that resembles food is provided in hospital.

    Do you not look in the mirror & give yourself a check up from the neck up before commenting

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Seems from googling that Darlington Memorial Hospital's food is an in-house operation. That's the difference - no penny-pinching contractor (like the one at our local hospital, where food was pretty good until it was out-sourced).

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    I spent nearly a week in hospital a few years ago. The food was average, small portions. But it was what expected for free food.

    If patients want more choice then they should have to pay for that choice, after all it is taxpayers paying for tens of thousands of meals a day

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Are they hiding it under the sprouts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    If you took a sample of people in the UK and fed them good quality meals, I guarantee a large percentage wouldn't like them. British people are picky by nature and there are increasingly cultural differences in diets. The best solution may be to charge for meals then they could choose what they liked. After all when you are in hospital you currently are saving the cost of all meals!

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Patients are in a bed because they are unwell! We can't shop and cook for ourselves. We don't all have other people who can rustle up meals, travel to hospital, pay a fortune to park and reheat it for us (only during visiting hours)

    I regularly get sent to a referral hospital 100+ miles away. How are my family getting food to me each day?

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    When I was last in hospital, whist you don't expect the best of food, the "Hospital" was carrying out an audit and a deficiency was recorded that the food was below the required temperature.When the audit was finished the food was served to us!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    if people want to pay for decent meals provided by a catering company then the money saved would be better used by the NHS.
    The post i was replying to wasn't advocating choice, but forcing patients to pay for food. If you think an outside caterer with a captive market would raise standards (rather than costs), you're a fool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Prisoners and schools are regulated under a quality of care for the food they receive.

    It is perverse that the most ill in our society, who have to remain in the care of a hospital for the good of their own health, are not protected in this way, especially given that a nutritional diet can only aid recovery.

    Decent NHS meals need not cost any extra, catering suppliers should be held to account

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Had a spell in Charing Cross last year, and the food was very bland. Surely celebrity chefs like Heston and Gordon could donate maybe one day a week to help improve it. Jamie did it for schools, and it would be nice to have some truffled foie gras instead of the usual tat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Hospital food varies dependent on the caterers. 20+ years ago I had a couple of stays in hospital.It was a good way of losing weight! Before the second time the doctor recommended I eat before going in! My mother was in and out of hospital, partly because she did not eat well. The hospital food did not help. However one time, she perked up on good food. The nurse said it was due to new caterers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Well I'm amazed!!!
    The exposing of medical negligence is met with gagging orders, so this is par for the course;isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    A few years ago I was in hospital for 10 days
    I survived because my wife brought edible food in every day.
    The stuff served to me went where it deserved to go - PIG SWILL
    They could have saved time and just sent it straight there and saved the porter time and effort.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    My friend came home from hospital after a serious illness involving his pancreas. He complained bitterly about the poorly cooked food and lack of dietary balance. His consultant had told him to eat well to regain weight, but my friend told him how bad the food was. The consultant sent him home where he has gained weight from 7 stone to 10 stone now he is properly fed.

    This is typical locally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    I am in hospitaland have been for weeks after massive stroke. the food here is appalling . I wouldn't feed it to a dog let alone a human. QEQM hospital Margate in Kent

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    The problem is people have become so sceptical, when they see reports such as this (unless they are tabloid readers) they simply think ‘what’s the hidden motive here? In this articles case, are they trying to drip feed the idea again that the NHS is better off being privatised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    We are shall have to agree to disagree. It is not a hotel but just as cleaning a hospital is vital to try to eradicate or reduce MRSA, so is the need to provide wholesome food. In my experience hospitals on the whole do not. At best it's blan. At worst it's slop. When you have patients with no relatives or friends, bringing in meals is not an option. We've all paid for this through our taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    I’m surprised there isn’t a basic standard set for food in hospital so introducing one would be a good thing. Appealing food is obviously a bonus but the overwhelming concern has to be its nutritional value. I certainly wouldn’t want to see money being diverted from medical care just to provide fancy food for a few whingers.


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