The Government has wasted more than £54m on "failed" schemes to improve hospital food, a report has warned.
According to research from food and farming pressure group Sustain there has been little change in the past two decades to patient meals despite numerous initiatives, including those fronted by celebrity chefs such as Loyd Grossman and Albert Roux.
Although there had been 21 initiatives to improve patient meals since 1992 they had failed to make any difference because they relied on hospitals to voluntarily adopt their recommendations, the report from the Campaign for Better Hospital Food said. At a cost of more than £54m, the money wasted was equivalent to 34 new hospital kitchens.
The report said the government had ignored at least 14 warnings from caterers, government advisers, MPs and health, environmental and animal welfare organisations that voluntary initiatives to improve hospital food were failing.
It concluded that compulsory nutritional standards are needed to ensure hospital food standards to improve. It wants to see nutritional standards in line with those introduced in schools in England in 2006 in all UK hospitals in the next 18 months.
Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of 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."