Government promises major hospital food shake-up


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Indy Lifestyle Online

NHS patients will be able to choose their hospital based on the quality of its food, the Government has announced, as part of a major shake-up of the rules around hospital meals.

Hospitals in England will be ranked on the NHS Choices website based on the range, quality and nutritional value of food served to patients.

Canteens will also have to meet new restrictions on levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat in products on offer to patients, visitors and staff. 

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the Government wanted “to know that all patients have nourishing and appetising food to help them get well faster and stay healthy”.

Hospitals will be expected to provide fish twice a week and ensure patients are offered a choice of breakfasts, while menus must include seasonal vegetables and half of all puddings must be “fruit-based”. Tap water must always be available and patients should be able to access food between mealtimes.

A review of hospital food, led by Age UK’s chairman Dianne Jeffrey, found that many hospitals were already offering excellent food to patients. However, she said the new standards would help busy hospital staff give patients “appetising and nutritious food that they want to eat”.

Hospital inspections have recently placed an increased emphasis on the quality of food on offer. Professor Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the Care Quality Commission, said that inspectors were already talking to patients and checking records to ensure they were getting the right food for their needs.

The new guidelines will also require hospitals to screen patients for malnutrition, prepare an individual food plan, and ensure patients are helped to eat and drink if required – all measures which are already considered best practice. Patients will also have the right to be included in planning what food they can eat.

NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens said: “It is time for the NHS set a clear example in providing healthier food for our patients, visitors and also our hardworking staff. That’s why NHS England has agreed to include hospital standards in the next NHS Contract, which will be published later this year.”