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Will new DH standards for hospital food improve patient nutrition?

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22 October, 2012

Will new DH standards for hospital food improve patient nutrition?

Some hospitals are failing to provide patients with high quality and healthy meals, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt warned last week.

Jeremy Hunt said that while some organisations were delivering decent food and drink for patients, others are “falling short”.

In a move to crack down on inadequate hospital catering, Mr Hunt announced a set of standards to ensure that patients receive nutritious and appetising food throughout their hospital stay.

Teams of inspectors, half of whom will be patients, will examine the taste, quality and temperature of food as well as the cleanliness of ward kitchens.

The fundamental food principles are:

  • Nutritious and appetising hospital food and drink is an essential part of the personal package of care and hospitals should take all reasonable steps to ensure that patients have a healthy food experience;
  • All patients should be able to choose from a reasonably varied menu that meets their social and religious needs whilst complementing their clinical care requirements;
  • All patients should have access at all times to fresh drinking water, unless this is contraindicated by their clinical condition;
  • Access to food and drink outside planned mealtimes should be available where appropriate;
  • Hospitals should promote a healthy diet to their staff and visitors;
  • The criteria set out in the Government Buying Standards for Food should be adopted as standard where practical and supported by procurement practices;
  • Hospitals should regularly evaluate their food services and act on feedback from patients, demonstrating improvement and aiming to achieve and maintain excellence; and
  • Commissioners of NHS-funded care should seek and reward excellence in hospital food when contracting services.
  • Guidance on hospital food revealed, Nursing Times

Readers' comments (3)

  • My father recently needed hospitalisation at the Queen Alexander Hospital, Portsmouth and his experience of the food was less than satisfactory so much so that he would only choose sandwiches at mealtimes. He found out that the PCT procured its food from a company called Carillion contracted by the PCT, who in turn get the food from Tiller Valley Foods in Wales!

    Now not knowing the full details its doesn't take too much intelligence to deduce that the cost of the food plus transport costs, plus middle-man contractors (Carillion) fee plus reheating, plus preparation at QAH for distributing to patients on wards must be more expensive than if the food was prepared by proper cooks onsite at the QAH. It would be fresher and not require reheating, which in itself can be a potential health hazard to patients. In addition, the environmental costs would be significantly reduced as the "ready-made" meals wouldn't need to be transported 155 miles down the M4. Am I loosing the plot or is this supposedly "progress"? Can someone explain the economics of this "meal pathway" from Wales to Portsmouth?

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  • Lloyd Grossman was bought in years back to improve patients meals - we also had snack-boxes for out-of-hours food for patients. Maybe it's time to bring in Jamie Oliver and re-introduce snack-boxes.

    We also need to look at catering for staff, our canteen closes at 8pm - it used to be open until 1am for night staff. There is no hot food available for night staff and we are just as important, we also don't have guaranteed breaks, often we work without having a drink all day.

    We need ward hostesses and enough ward staff 7 days a week to help at mealtimes so that patients get nice food, nicely served and given help if they need it.

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  • It's all well and good creating standards for hospital food, but where's the funding for this going to come from? I cannot remember the last time I was in a clinical area that DIDN'T contract all their food to private agencies. The NHS is going through so many cuts and reductions to save money, but I'm sure having in-house catering services would be more cost-effective in the long-term. Plus having the option for patients to eat almost whenever they want (to match their own routines when at home) would surely create a better inpatient experience, rather than the ritualised meals at set times.

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