Legally-Binding Standards For Hospital Food Required, Says Leading Campaigner

23 December 2013

Legally-Binding Standards For Hospital Food Required, Says Leading Campaigner

Writing on the British Medical Journal’s website, a leading campaigner is calling for legally binding standards for the quality of hospital food provided by the NHS.

Katherine Jenner, chair of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, argued in the article that the the existing voluntary system is not working and needs to address the inherent quality of hospital food, which has often found to be seriously lacking.

The government is currently undertaking a review of hospital food, despite now supporting a private member's bill in the House of Lords which calls for compulsory standards for the quality of the food.

Lady Cumberlege has introduced the bill recommending that the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, should ask a relevant body of experts to draft compulsory food standards for hospitals, after which the Care Quality Commission (CQC) can check these standards are being followed. The bill is so far backed by 98 organisations supporting the Campaign for Better Hospital Food.

While concerns over the quality of hospital food is nothing new, official reports and inquiries such as the Francis report specifically highlighted the need to improve hospital food standards among its 290 recommendations.

Ms Jenner claims voluntary initiatives to improve hospital food have not worked, with governments having wasted more than £54m of taxpayers' money 21 such schemes since 1992; Ms Jenner maintains this money could easily have paid for 34 new hospital kitchens instead.

The campaign group undertook a survey which suggested that three out of every four hospital meals would qualify for a ‘red light’ qualification under the Food Standards Agency's traffic light model because of how highly saturated they were- and that 15 of the 25 meals surveyed contained more salt than a Big Mac.

Ms Jenner wrote in the BMJ: "Most British public sector institutions already have to adhere to mandatory standards for the meals they serve, including mandatory nutritional standards for school food and the food served in hospitals in Wales and Scotland.

"Several nutritional and environmental standards apply to foods served in government departments and prisons.

"So why are there no mandatory standards in English hospitals?"

Ms Jenner added: "I am not asking for standards that you would find in a Michelin starred restaurant; rather, healthier and more nutritious food with less salt and saturated fat that is sustainable, with higher animal welfare standards and fair trade."

In response, health minister Dan Poulter opined that while there were good examples of hospital food, there was too much variety between services and good quality.

"We support the principle of national food standards but do not agree that legislation is the right way to proceed. The best decisions on hospital food are those taken locally by chefs and catering managers, working with patients."

If you or somebody you know has experienced a particularly poor standard in the quality of food provided at a hospital, Mistreatment.com can provide you with the advice, guidance and support to allow you to make an official complaint at the hospital or trust in question or to escalate the concern further if the experience is particularly serious. Mistreatment.com has a number of specialist teams who can guide you through the process of making a complaint and to help you better understand what your patient and healthcare rights are.