The report called for compulsory nutritional standards to improve patients’ meals. It claimed that the 21 initiatives to improve the quality of hospital meals since 1992 had all failed because they relied on hospitals to voluntarily adopt their recommendations.
The £54M wasted was the equivalent to 34 new hospital kitchens, according to the report from the Campaign for better Hospital Food, which is run by Sustain and supported by 89 organisations.
The report also warned that the government had ignored at least 14 warnings from government advisers, MPs, commercial caterers, and health, environmental and animal welfare organisations that voluntary initiatives to improve hospital food were failing.
Loyd Grossman − who led the government’s Better Hospital Food initiative between 2001 and 2006 − said: “There has not yet been a noticeable change in the way hospital food is produced, prepared, cooked and served. I welcome the publication of this report and hope that it prompts government to take a new and effective approach to improving hospital food, including by requiring it to meet mandatory standards.”
Grossman added: “Serving fresh and nutritious hospital food is vital to improving patient health, and to raising morale – amongst National Health Service staff, patients and their families.”
Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: “This report must serve as a lesson to Jeremy Hunt that simply publishing recommendations for the improvement of hospital food isn’t good enough, as every one of his predecessors in the last twenty years has found out.”
Jackson said it was time for the government to “take effective action by introducing mandatory standards for patient meals”.
‘Vague and voluntary’
Earlier this week, the Academy of Royal Colleges − which represents Britain’s 220,000 doctors − announced its public support for mandatory standards for hospital food in UK hospitals. The Academy described Jeremy Hunt’s proposals to improve hospital food as “vague and voluntary”.
Meanwhile, last week it was revealed that beef burgers containing horsemeat had been supplied to hospitals in Northern Ireland.
David Bingham − spokesman for the Business Services Organisation, which sources meat for the health trusts − said that one range, supplied by a firm in the Republic of Ireland had been withdrawn.
What they say about hospital meals:
Albert Roux, asked in 1995 by the Department of Health to advise on how to improve hospital food: “We must not think that high quality hospital food is too difficult or expensive to achieve. After all, simple food is often the best food – and fresh seasonal produce is cheap to buy.
“If we have learned anything from the last twenty years it is that meetings, speeches and gimmicks do not work – what we need now is change to the whole hospital food system, starting with the introduction of food standards for every patient meal.”
John Benson-Smith, appointed to work with Loyd Grossman to support the Better Hospital Food Initiative: “The complete experience I found fascinating, joyful, inspiring, frustrating, bewildering and one which I will never forget.
“The huge task to improve the food that was placed on the patient's plate was indeed of an epic scale and proportion. Hospital food does not need 'tickling' or a handful of greatly composed PR words again. It is in need of a huge re-think.”
Michael Seres, hospital patient: “I’ve been in and out of hospital for thirty years with Crohn’s Disease which required major surgery last year. From my perspective, hospital food hasn’t got any better in this time, and remains the number one complaint amongst patients. It’s shocking to admit, but I’m not surprised that the horsemeat scandal has spread to hospitals.”