The Government is facing renewed calls to overhaul hospital food after a major study revealed widespread dissatisfaction with the standard of catering.
The Food Watch survey of more than 2,200 patients, by Patient and Public Involvement Forums, revealed that more than a third left a meal because it looked, smelt or tasted unappetising.
More than one in five of the patients questioned were given meals that were not warm enough or too hot, while 18% didn't get the choice of meal they wanted.
The survey also showed that more than a quarter of respondents were not receiving the help they need to eat their meals, while 40% had their hospital meals supplemented by food brought in by visitors.
Sharon Grant, chair of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, said the results call into question the effect of the Government's £40m Better Hospital Food programme, which was scrapped in May after five years.
"Hospital food has been subjected to more initiatives than it tries to provide hot dinners. But it still remains a joke. Patients aren't laughing, and it's about time NHS and foundation trusts found the right punch line," she said. "We will be sending the results to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt in the hope that she can do for hospital food what Jamie Oliver did for school meals."
Alison McCree, chair of the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA), labelled the results disappointing and called on NHS trusts to not let the food-quality issue "fall off the radar".
"Many of the issues cited by patients in relation to their satisfaction with meals, such as cold, late or wrong meals, could be dramatically reduced by adopting practical measures," she said. "For example, the
HCA believes that ward housekeepers or ‘hostesses' should be more widely deployed to work alongside nursing staff on every ward."
What patients want
- Frequent changes in menu - especially for those in long-term care.
- National standards.
- Fresh food, prepared and presented to encourage and satisfy appetite, recuperation and dietary needs.
- Choice - for all patients, not just for those first in the queue.
- Meals served at the correct temperature.
Source: Patient and Public Involvement Forums
By Daniel Thomas
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