Wales politics

Hospital food: 'Intolerable' delays improving patient meals

Hospital food Image copyright Getty Images

Delays in implementing measures to improve patient nutrition in hospitals have been dubbed "intolerable" by an assembly committee.

The NHS has been accused of a "lack of leadership, stagnant activity and frustratingly slow progress" by AMs.

A report said a 2015 survey found a third of patients reported being given a meal that was unappetising.

The Welsh Government said it had already introduced healthy eating initiatives in the NHS.

In 2011, a previous report by the auditor general for Wales called for a computerised catering information system and standardised nursing documentation to ensure measures on screening patients for nutritional problems were followed.

But a report published by the assembly's Public Accounts Committee on Monday said there was still no progress on a computerised catering information system.

AMs said it was "intolerable" it would take another three years for the nursing documentation to be completed and no health boards had a named non-executive director responsible for patient nutrition.

The report said provision of appetising meals for patients appeared to fall short of the standards the committee expected.

AMs cited a 2015 national survey which said not all patients were offered a replacement meal when they missed one because they were off ward, nor were they all offered snacks even when advised to eat them.

"Hospital catering and patient nutrition is a key element in ensuring that people make a full and healthy recovery while in hospital," said Nick Ramsay, the committee's chairman.

"Although there are some positive results, key elements of the original report from 2011 have still not been implemented.

"It is entirely unacceptable that almost a decade will have passed before these matters are resolved and patients receive efficient and effective meal services that provide the basics of appetising and nutritious food and water to remain hydrated."

The report makes a number of recommendations, including that the Welsh Government tells health boards to name a director in charge of hospital catering and patient nutrition.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We have already introduced a range of initiatives aimed at patients, staff and visitors in relation to healthy eating - including mandatory food and fluid nutrition standards for patients, mandatory healthy food and drink vending standards and guidance for food and drink served to visitors and staff.

"We are currently considering ways to improve healthy food provision in hospitals even further, including an upcoming review of the mandatory standards."

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