£50m wasted on attempts to improve hospital food

Report reveals NHS catering is still bad despite decade of initiatives

Heston Blumenthal revealed in June that he had taken on a secret mission to devise a menu for NHS patients.

With the decade coming to an end, perhaps ministers believed that only the head chef of Britain's most garlanded restaurant, The Fat Duck, was capable of clearing hospital trays of plastic bread and gloopy stews.

Although Blumenthal has not divulged the results of his year-long quest to replicate Jamie Oliver's school dinners campaign in hospitals, the NHS has proved a graveyard for the public-spirited work of fellow chefs Albert Roux and Loyd Grossman.

All of them have, so far, failed to reinvigorate the quality of food on the wards, according to a blistering report today by the food group Sustain.

It suggests that the Government has wasted £50m since 2000 on at least 17 initiatives to improve hospital food which have "resulted in almost no improvement to the quality of meals served, or to their nutritional and environmental value".

The report, A Decade of Hospital Food Failure, lists the schemes that have failed to transform NHS food – a failure graphically illustrated this summer by a patient who invited visitors to his blog to identify his meals in a game of "Hospital Food Bingo".

"Traction Man", who was being treated in the South-west, stressed that his medical care had been "fabulous", but added on the food: "Everything is minced and slushy and overcooked, and I guess that is the way that a lot of older patients need and want it. If you are a bit younger in need of vitamins and nutrition... it ain't going to work."

Ministers acknowledge that patients fed a nutritious diet recover more quickly and, with this aim, launched the £40m NHS Better Hospital Food campaign fronted by Masterchef presenter Loyd Grossman in 2001. Five years later the scheme was scrapped after the Hospital Caterers Association estimated fewer than half NHS trusts were making three recommended dishes. A quarter were making none.

Similarly, the £2.5m Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative, launched in 2003 to improve the sustainability of public sector food was scrapped in 2009 too, after proving inadequate.

In the past two years, independent reports have castigated hospital food. In 18 of the 21 hospitals checked by dietitians for the consumer group Which? last October, 86 per cent of meals contained too much salt, 67 per cent too much saturated fat and 52 per cent too much fat according to Food Standard Agency guidelines. Which? said the results were "farcical" given the role of hospitals in promoting health.

In August, Bournemouth University suggested patients were served worse food than prisoners. Meals were of poor quality and nutrition and nurses failed to feed patients who struggled to feed themselves.

In a parliamentary reply in April, ministers revealed that 2,600 people had died from malnutrition in hospitals and care homes in England since 2000.

Sustain said the problem was that the Government had failed to place legal requirements on caterers. The food campaigner Kath Dalmeny said: "The Secretary of State responsible for food standards, Hilary Benn, should admit that 10 years of expensive voluntary initiatives have failed... he must introduce legal standards for public sector food."

The Department of Health defended its initiatives. In a statement, it said: "Money spent on providing high quality nutrition to patients is not wasted. The majority of patients are satisfied with the food they receive in hospitals, and we are working to improve services further."

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: "The Government believes strongly in high-quality, nutritious food and using seasonably availability produce... we want to lead by example."

Recipes for disaster NHS food plans

*1995 Chef Albert Roux launches nutrition guidelines for hospital catering. Most hospital caterers ignore the guidelines.



*2000 £10m NHS Plan commits, among other measures, to new menu designed by chefs.



*2001 Loyd Grossman fronts the £40m Better Hospital Food Initiative, which creates 300 restaurant-style recipes. Most hospitals ignore the voluntary menus.



*2003 £2.5m Public Sector Food Procurement initiative aims to raise consumption of healthy food. Six years later ministers replace it with a Healthier Food Mark.



*2006 After his scheme is scrapped, Grossman says: "The Government has made no other plans for improving standards and I am extremely concerned that without a strong, persistent voice promoting the issue, it will slip through the cracks."



*2009 Study finds NHS patients are served worse food than prisoners.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

    £8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

    Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

    £55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

    Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

    Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines