Standards for hospital food should be enshrined in law according to food policy pressure group Sustain, after failed attempts to improve it is found to have cost taxpayers more than £50m in the last 10 years.
A new report by Sustain entitled Yet more hospital food failure… says legislation is the only way to improve food after 17 failed voluntary schemes in the last 10 years.
Despite the Government schemes, including the £40m Better Hospital Food initiative spearheaded by TV chef Lloyd Grossman, the number of patients who become malnourished during their hospital stay has risen.
Grossman, who worked unpaid on the scheme for five-years, said: "My colleagues and I were frustrated and disappointed that there was neither the political will nor sufficient resources to improve hospital food.
"It is a scandal that improving hospital catering remains far from the top of the NHS agenda."
Malnutrition is believed to have contributed to the deaths of nearly 50,000 patients each year in NHS hospitals according to a Nutrition Action Plan delivery board study published in February and last year it emerged that some hospitals spend less than prisons on food, with one spending les than £1 a day per patient.
Professor Tim Lang, a Government and WHO adviser on food policy, called on the Government to take responsibility for ensuring the health and ethical hazards of hospital food has been removed before it is served to patients.
He said: "The government has relied on celebrity chefs and costly gimmicks to paper over the problems with their policies on failed hospital food.
"It must now take effective action, by requiring hospitals to meet legal standards for hospital food so that, wherever it is served, we can be sure it is safe, enjoyable to eat, supportive of health and good for the environment."
By Janie Stamford
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