DISGRACEFUL Bradford ninth on worst served hospital meal list
Hospitals across the UK have been criticised after care watchdog reveals that almost half of all patients feel that hospital food is not good enough, and that some trusts are spending just £2.64 a day on three meals.
Bradford ranked ninth on the country’s worst served meals list.
NHS hospitals claim their own studies show that 99 per cent of patient meals are rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Now hospitals have been accused of conning the public with bogus claims about the quality and choice of food on offer to patients.
Campaigners claim nutrition and quality standards are below those for prisons and Whitehall department restaurants, which must adhere to mandatory levels.
In some NHS trusts, such as the Heatherwood and Wexham Park, which serves Ascot, Maidenhead, Slough and Windsor, less than four in ten rated the food as ‘good’, placing it bottom of the league of patient satisfaction.
However, a survey of staff at its hospitals rated the food, which is prepared by outside contractors, as excellent.
Other low scores were given to the Medway NHS Foundation Trust in Kent, and the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which includes Queen Mary’s hospital in Sidcup.
The research also reveals that there is little correlation between the amount of money spent on meals and their quality.
For example, Heatherwood and Wexham Park trust spends a relatively high figure of £13 a day per patient, yet it came bottom on patient satisfaction.
The lowest spending to provide three meals to patients was at the Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, where the figure was just £2.94.
The trust which spent the most on food was Barts in London at £15.65 a day, however the proportion of patients who rated the food as good was just 48 per cent.
The figure at the South Tees trust was £15.47 a day – five times higher than the nearby Gateshead hospitals. At South Tees, the proportion of patients who rated food as good was 60 per cent.
The damning figures were released by the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, which is supported by 97 organisations, including the Royal College of Physicians, British Heart Foundation and the Patients Association.
All are calling on the Government to support a change in the law that would improve all patient meals by requiring them to meet mandatory standards, including quality and nutrition.
Campaign co-ordinator, Alex Jackson said that it was time for the Government to come clean about the sorry state of hospital food in England and set mandatory standards for patient meals.
Jackson said: “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?”
The Unison union, whose members work in hospital kitchens, claimed that meals produced in-house were generally a higher quality than those from outside contractors.
Its deputy head of health, Sara Gorton, said: “While costs vary, it is plain that food cooked fresh on hospital premises scores the highest with patients.
“Unison is backing calls for set standards for hospital food in England. At the same time we want more hospitals to use kitchens to prepare and cook patient meals instead of bringing in ready-meals from outside.”
The Department of Health rejected the need for minimum legal standards and said the figures, which relate to 2011-12, were out of date.
A spokesman said: “There are many fantastic examples of really good food across the NHS thanks to forward-thinking and innovative staff.
“But, we recognise that there is too much variation across the country — that is why we have implemented a tough new inspection programme.
“With our army of thousands of patient assessors we will drive up standards and reduce variation in hospital food.”
She added: “We support the principle of food standards but do not think that legislation is the right way to proceed.”