UK & World News
Hospital Food Shake-Up Announced By NHS Chiefs
The days of lumpy mash and watery gravy should become a thing of the past for hospital patients and staff as new mandatory food standards are introduced.
The rules will be legally binding and are aimed at putting an end to unhealthy and inedible meals on the NHS.
Under the changes, all patients will be checked for malnutrition, given an individual food plan and get help eating and drinking.
Canteen food must also be healthy, meet guidelines on salt, sugar and fat and be sustainably sourced.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said most people enjoyed the meals they currently received.
But he added: "Patients say the quality of food at their hospital is one of the most important things in their stay, on top of which we know that if you give people healthy, nutritious food it means they recover more quickly, they stay in hospital for a shorter amount of time and it costs the NHS less, so there are lots of reasons why this is very important."
The plans come from a report by the Hospital Food Standards Panel, which also recommended hospitals develop food and drink policies that encourage healthy eating, high-quality food production, sustainability and excellent nutritional care.
Hospitals will also be scored on the standard of their food, with results to be posted online.
It is a move being welcomed by 22-year-old Craig Benwell, who said the meals he received during a recent stay in hospital were often inedible or served in tiny portions.
The hospital says thin, plain food was appropriate for his condition because he was being treated for Crohn's Disease.
But Mr Benwell told Sky News: "I can understand why I was on the special diet because I can only eat certain foods.
"But the amount of food that was coming out and the look of it just wasn't very appetising at all.
"The main problem was portion size ... I had to really gain weight and the portions they were giving me just really weren't enough."
The new changes will be included in NHS contracts but will not be written into law, leading to criticism from campaigners that they could be easily ignored.
Alex Jackson, coordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, added: "We're also alarmed that the Government's food standards are weak and only reflect basic catering and care standards, which are already commonly implemented in the NHS, including that 'tap water is available' to patients.
"Good things in themselves, but nowhere near ambitious enough to have a transformative effect on patient meals."