There is “considerable variation” in the amount spent on patient meals in Welsh hospitals, with some costing just over £1 each and others nearly £4, latest data shows.
In addition, the data shows that on average 275,260 patient meals are thrown away untouched every year, suggesting that wasted patient meals costs the NHS in Wales around £840,000 annually.
“These figures show a significant difference in the value of patient meals in Welsh hospitals”
The figures (see box below) were collected via a Freedom of Information request by the Welsh Conservatives.
They show that the average cost of a hospital meal – including snacks and beverages – in the Welsh NHS is £3.05.
Commenting on the figures, shadow health minister Darren Millar said: “A costly meal is no guarantee of nutritional quality, just as a cheap meal doesn’t necessary mean poor quality food, but these figures show a significant difference in the value of patient meals in Welsh hospitals from almost £4 per meal in Gwent to less than £1.50 in North Wales.
He claimed it was “barely believable” that a quality meal including fresh fruit and vegetables together with regular snacks and beverages could be produced “for less than the cost of a small glass of lemonade in a pub”.
“The standard of hospital food does not have the greatest culinary reputation, but patients in North Wales may be particularly disturbed to learn how little is spent on patient food compared to other parts of the country,” he added.
Mr Millar called on the government to consider adopting legally-binding rules for Welsh health boards, similar to those recently adopted in England. These, he said, would establish “clear food standards for the Welsh NHS to ensure every patient receives the nutrients and vitamins they need”.
In response, a Welsh Government spokesman pointed to the introduction of the All Wales Hospital Menu Framework last year, which consists of a range of specified dishes supported by a database of nutritionally analysed recipes.
He said the framework allowed some local flexibility to accommodate different requirements, but added that all health boards had been introducing the agreed menu items.
“We know good food can encourage patients to eat well, giving them the nutrients they need to recover from surgery or illness,” the spokesman said. “We introduced the framework in 2013, which includes a database of recipes, which meet strict nutritional standards, to be used in all hospitals.”
He added that patients and staff had a “vitally important role” to play in ensuring food was not wasted.
“NHS Wales has already met the overall target not to exceed 10% wastage of untouched meals in hospital and are now exploring ways to improve on this including the roll out of an all-Wales catering IT system, which will contribute to improving the management and efficiency of catering services, including the levels of food wastage,” he said.
|NHS Health Board||Cost per meal||Wasted meals (annual total)|
|Cardiff and Vale UHB||£3.22||£37,540.25|
|Hywel Dda HB||£3.42||£122,534.30|
|Betsi Cadwaladr UHB||£1.34||£89,067.30|
|Abertawe Bro Morgannwg UHB||£3.78||£198,195.00|
|Cwm Taf HB||£3.81||£52,553.34|
|Powys Teaching HB||£1.96||£128,442.50|
|Aneurin Bevan UHB||£3.85||£211,212.27|
* Data collected from health boards via FOI by Welsh Conservatives