UK & World News
Hospital Food Schemes 'Wasted £54m'
Mandatory food standards should be introduced in hospitals amid reports voluntary schemes to improve quality have failed, wasting £54m.
A new report by the Campaign for Better Hospital Food states that since 1992, governments have introduced 21 "failed" voluntary initiatives.
The initiatives have often used celebrity chefs but have been described as "gimmicks".
They have failed because they relied on hospitals to voluntarily adopt their recommendations, the report concluded.
The £54m was equivalent to 34 new hospital kitchens, the report added.
Presenter Loyd Grossman, who has previously advised the Government on hospital food standards, backed the campaign, saying that ministers should stop using voluntary initiatives.
Mr Grossman said: "Serving fresh and nutritious hospital food is vital to improving patient health, and to raising morale - amongst NHS staff, patients and their families.
"There has not yet been a noticeable change in the way hospital food is produced, prepared, cooked and served.
"I welcome the publication of this report and hope that it prompts the Government to take a new and effective approach to improving hospital food, including by requiring it to meet mandatory standards."
Alex Jackson, co-ordinator at the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: "This report must serve as a lesson to Jeremy Hunt that simply publishing recommendations for the improvement of hospital food isn't good enough, as every one of his predecessors in the last 20 years has found out.
"It's time for the Government to take effective action by introducing mandatory standards for patient meals."
In October last year, Mr Hunt introduced a set of standards to ensure that patients receive nutritious and appetising food throughout their hospital stay.
He said that food and drink should be available at all times of the day - not just meal times.
Patients should also have the choice from a varied menu - including meals suitable for religious needs, he said.
Hospitals will be inspected to ensure that they are adhering to the guidance.
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.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "We believe that the best decisions on hospital food are those taken locally by chefs and catering managers rather than having centrally imposed standards.
"There are many fantastic examples of really good food across the NHS thanks to forward-thinking and innovative staff."