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Hospitals must promote healthy food to their staff, says government

Hospital trusts must provide healthy eating options for their staff as well as patients, under new rules on food quality in NHS organisations.

Mandatory NHS food standards were announced on Friday by the Department of Health, as part of the latest drive to raise the quality of nutrition in healthcare settings.

“I believe these recommendations will help busy hospital staff make sure patients get appetising and nutritious food”

Dianne Jeffrey

Hospital trusts will have to comply with five legally-binding food standards, which will be added to the NHS Standard Contract for provider organisations.

These include screening patients for malnutrition, ensuring they have a food plan, and taking steps to ensure patients get the help they need to eat and drink.

In addition, hospital canteens must promote healthy diets for staff and visitors, and the food on offer must comply with government recommendations on salt, saturated fats and sugar.

For the first time, hospitals will also be ranked on the NHS Choices website for the quality of their food.

The changes were recommended in a report written for the government by an independent panel of 22 experts from the fields of health, food and the environment.

As well as the mandatory standards, it recommended that all NHS hospitals should develop and maintain a food and drink strategy. This should include the “nutrition and hydration needs of patients” and “healthier eating for the whole hospital communityfff, especially staff”.

The panel was led by Dianne Jeffrey, chair of the charity Age UK. Nursing representatives included Liz Evans, a specialist nutrition nurse at Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, Lyn McIntyre, representing the Royal College of Nursing, and Marie Batey, from the nursing directorate at NHS England.

Age UK

Dianne Jeffrey

Ms Jeffrey said: “We know malnourished people will take longer to recover and suffer from more complications. No hospital can afford to neglect this essential part of their care.

“I believe these recommendations will help busy hospital staff make sure patients get appetising and nutritious food that they want to eat and are given the help they need to do so,” she said.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt added: “We want to know that all patients have nourishing and appetising food to help them get well faster and stay healthy, which is why we’re introducing tough new mandatory standards for the first time ever.”

“Hospitals must make sure they have sufficient numbers of suitably trained staff available”

Janet Davies

Commenting on the new rules, RCN executive director Janet Davies described good hospital food as “one of the cornerstones of good patient care”.

But she said: “Many hospital patients need help to eat, for example, it can take up to 45 minutes to assist someone with dementia to eat even a small meal.

“Hospitals must make sure they have sufficient numbers of suitably trained staff available to deliver this care and assistance for every patient that needs it,” she said.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Wow, what a lovely idea, promoting healthy eating to nursing staff. Now all we need is the opportunity to be able to actually leave a ward for enough time to go to the canteen and sit down to eat a meal!!!

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  • Indeed. By the time you queue up behind endless visitors most of your break is gone, and you don't have enough time to eat what you have bought.

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  • does this mean that our hospital will no longer be able to rely on greggs as a staff canteen any longer. We currently have one of its most profitable branches as our main source of food at our trust Royal Wton and virtually nowhere to sit down to eat. Its commonplace to see staff walking up and down thw corridors eating "a highly nutritious" steak bake or sausage roll. a really good example of eating habits {I dont think}

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  • Nursing staff frequently do not have the opportunity to go to the canteen. It is usually right at the end of the hospital. Nurses often do not get a break as there is so much to do especially if you have poorly patients who are taking up a lot of your time. By the way if you do get your 15minutes break unpaid not enough time to go to canteen and no time to eat it! How can it be right that you only allowed 15 minute unpaid break when you do a 7.5 hour shift. Frequently off late. By time get home I'm too exhausted to make anything healthy to eat!

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