Eighteen months after the Better Hospital Food programme (BHF) was scrapped by the Government, a Which? report released today has slammed the quality of food in Britain's hospitals.
Consumer rights body Which? interviewed 1,000 patients and 250 hospital staff including nurses, caterers and managers across seven sites in August and September 2007.
It found nearly a third (32%) of in-patients were unhappy with the quality of food in hospitals, and that 68% of staff felt that improvements needed to be made.
A spokesman for Which? said: "It seems strange, in an environment where health is meant to be the highest priority, that food can still be treated as a ‘poor relation' in hospitals."
Which? has called on the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency to outline mandatory nutritional standards as soon as possible and work with hospitals to implement them immediately.
It also wants the Government to set up a Hospital Food Review Group to develop long-term solutions to the problem of lack of decent food for patients.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Good food is important for all patients and we have recognised this as a priority issue. We expect every Trust to take their responsibilities on hospital food seriously and to make sure that hospitals meet the standards that patients rightly expect."
However Graham Merchant, divisional director for Aramark healthcare, said: "I agree with the report. I think food in hospitals needs to be, and will be, less cost-driven and they'll start bringing in quality. At the moment they don't give us a lot to play with."
By Tom Howard
E-mail your comments to Tom Howard here.