Patient satisfaction with hospital food 'wrongly reported'

Campaigners claim hospitals are falsely reporting figures as it is revealed one trust spends just £2.94 per patient per day

Campaigners want to see improvements to hospital food

Hospitals are being accused of falsely reporting that patients are satisfied with the standard of the food on offer after it was revealed that some NHS facilities are spending as little as £2.94 per person per day.

Surely patients recovering in hospital have the same right to good food as government ministers, school kids and prisoners?

In their own studies, hospitals routinely claim that 99% of patient meals are rated ‘excellent’ or ‘good’.

But new evidence from the Campaign for Better Hospital Food puts the actual figure at just 55%.

And the group revealed that spending on catering and the level of satisfaction among patients varies significantly from trust to trust, with just 40% of patients at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust giving the food on offer a ‘good’ rating, putting it at the bottom of the league table.

Other low scores were given to the Medway NHS Foundation Trust in Kent, and the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, among others.

The amount spent per patient per day also varies, from £15.47 a day at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, to Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, which spends just £2.94 a day.

Strangely, despite low scores for satisfaction, the Heatherwood and Wexham Park trust spends £13 a day per patient, putting it near the top end of the scale.

The findings have led to calls for the Government to change the laws to demand mandatory improvements to the quality and nutritional value of patient meals.

Alex Jackson, co-ordinator at the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: “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?”

Unison bosses argue that standards are higher in trusts that have not yet outsourced their catering services.

We recognise that there is too much variation across the country and 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

The union’s 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.”

But the Department of Health said it would not be introducing standards, claiming the figures given were out of date.

A spokesman added: “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.”

Speaking to BBH this week, Andy Jones, chairman Hospital Caterers Association, said of the report: "Despite views to the contrary, hospital caterers are extremely concerned about providing meals that are wholesome and nutritious and suitable to meet the dietary needs and choice of all of their patients.

As they see food as being as integral to patient care as medicine or treatment, they are well aware of the contribution good food makes to patient recovery. However, to achieve that aim, it is important for all members of the clinical care team as well as caterers to recognise the role that good nutritional care can make to improving the patient’s clinical outcome. To achieve this on a consistent basis, we need to see the setting of not only mandatory nutritional standards, but also product specifications."

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