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 289.

    You want an operation? you go to a hospital.
    You want a fine meal? go to a restaurant.
    Some people are only happy when they're whining and moaning about something. Be grateful you STILL have a decent health service compared to many parts of the world - and quit the petty griping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.


    Borrow a braincell please
    Its not about more money
    Its about many hospitals doing fine on £2.60 a day, but also some doing fantastic, and some doing absolutely CRUD

    If many can do fantastic for same money, then they ALL can & 100% no reason why some should be so bad. Once again, its crud muppets managing & even some really crud contractors & crud employees, get rid of the CRUD

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of maintaining health therefore it is vital that hospitals supply nutritious meals to patients. Also, many patients, particularly the elderly, need assistance with eating and drinking which is often overlooked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Is this really new - hospital food has been complained about forever!

    I thought the food was actually OK when I was in hospital.

    f you want more, demand that the government let you pay more tax........ thought not

    You know, it's not a hotel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    279. Mike "The NHS are given about £3 a day to feed people! ..."

    That is ample to provide good food given the economics of scale, Where it goes wrong is when private caterers cream off large chunks of that £3 before even starting to cook and then look to cut corners to take even more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    I lived and worked in Asia so inevitably something would eventually hospitalise me. To my horror, I found out on admittance that rural hospitals don't feed their patients-full stop! That, they argue is the responsibility of immediate family and/or friends so that was how I survived but treatment and care was first class. Prisons adopt exactly the same routine so it's not unique by any means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    @239 it is true that prisoners food is regulated under a quality of care for food. However it was done for good reason. Prisoners used to be fed appalling food that caused all manner of medical problems causing the cost of keeping them behind bars even more expensive.

    Hopefully our government will see the similarities occurring in today's hospitals and provide quality foods for patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Is there not an Entrepreneurial Opportunity here ? Hospitals are too keen on Extortionate Car Parking Charges, Pay TV, and Pay Telephones by the Bedsides. Aren't Patients actually more interested in Recovery ? Why not an Option Service for a Pay for decent Food ? Most Patients will have some form of either State Support for their Incapacitation. Should that not be going towards their Sustainance ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    I didn't complain when I was hospitalised recently, all I wanted to do was escape! And it had nothing to do with level of care, food or anything else. Which was pretty excellent!

  • Comment number 280.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    The NHS are given about £3 a day to feed people!

    I don't know what people are expecting to be honest..........it's not a holiday camp or a hotel. It is what it is.

    If you want better food, pay more tax. Or buy your own food. That's the long and short of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    During my last hospital stay the only edible food was the salad,they even ruined that one day when a server took it upon herself to put mashed potato and gravy on my salad as she said I needed to eat more.
    When I was able I used the hospital restaurant to eat, the food was good and well priced. Despite the hospital having a restaurant all food for the wards was brought in from external caterers

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    We must be realistic.
    We cannot expect Public Servants to admit they have failed.
    Our Politiciancs let us down every time they speak.
    That is what Public Servants are very good at.
    All our fault.We vote for people who accept no responsibility whatsoever.
    They always have someone else to blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    It doesn't just end with patients either! As a hospital shift worker I have had to race to the canteens to fit in with their narrow opening windows after working more than 12 hours without a break, night duty means you can forget getting a hot meal....and in general the food is unhealthy and goes against the national obesity drive completely. Its about time the NHS set an example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    That photo took real guts.....I'm just not sure whose?

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.


    "But it was what expected for free food." It was NOT free food, you paid for it as did the rest of us. Perhaps you'd rather we went back to workhouse gruel?

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    I wonder if the same slops are served in the Westminster Bubble canteens?

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    No-one is looking for 5 star menus what they are looking for is something that is edible, at the beginning of the year my wife had a stay in hospital and she ate nothing. If you are going to get better one of the fundamental's is that you eat reasonably well not pig swill. Give that to the prisons and you would have a riot ( and human rights would be violated )

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    When relatives have stayed in hospital they have been given bland, tasteless and, in many cases, inedible cook chill food. They rarely get what they choose off the menu due to mix ups and the meals would be luke warm at best.

    Where we used to take flowers and get well cards we now take food. No wonder there are a plethora of take aways across the road.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    2011. rideforever

    90% SAY NO

    Are we rules by criminals? Apparently the answer is YES and they don't/won't/will not listen to their own electorate who put them there.
    Wait until 2015 - if we have survived WWIII that is...We can have a say to the lot of them then. That includes all politicians who decide to vote for war in Syria instead of sending aid to the poor people involved.


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