Half of hospitals in England failing to meet hospital food standards

Hospital Food A Department of Health progress review has found that half of hospitals in England have not implemented key improvements almost two years after the publication of the Hospital Food Standards Panel report.

The research, titled “Compliance with hospital food standards in the NHS. Two years on: a review of progress since the Hospital Food Standards Panel report in 2014”, has found that:

  • 48% of hospitals are still not meeting government buying standards that oblige them to meet a range of standards regulating the quality, nutritional value and ethical sourcing of the food they serve patients, staff and visitors.
  • While over half of all hospitals had by last year begun assessing the nutritional needs of every patient in order to detect and avoid malnutrition, an unspecified substantial minority still had not.
  • Only 55% of hospitals have fully complied with the British Dietetic Association’s nutrition and hydration digest, a toolkit designed to help hospitals ensure patients receive nutritious meals that meet their dietary requirements.

Joanna Lewis, Food for Life Policy Director, said: “The Department of Health’s progress review on hospital food shows there is an awful long way still to go, despite some encouraging signs like the achievement of the Food for Life Catering Mark standards for fresh, healthy, sustainable food by 43 hospital catering providers. Half of hospitals report meeting the Government’s own standards for hospital food, but these go nowhere near far enough to make hospitals the beacons of good food they need to be – vending machines in compliant hospitals are still crammed full of confectionary and crisps. The no1 ask from the 2014 Hospital Food Standards Panel was that all NHS Trusts had to have a food and drink strategy. This review says that most hospitals have now written a strategy – but no one is asking if these are driving change and how ambitious that change is? Food for Life works with leading NHS Trusts to help them become beacons of good food, so that patients, staff and patients will see that their hospital is ‘walking the talk’. Nothing less will do if the NHS is to deliver Chief Executive Simon Steven’s promised ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’ and save itself from bankruptcy.”

Rich Watts, Food for Life Catering Mark Lead, added: “Food for Life’s partnership with the Hospital Caterers Association is helping to scale up the best practice in hospital food. 43 hospital catering providers have already achieved Food for Life standards, showing they want to be part of a ‘race to the top’ in quality, demonstrating to our inspectors and the country that they are going far beyond the Government’s own minimum standards. Many of these providers have worked with their teams to achieve the award for both patient staff and visitor food demonstrating their wide-ranging commitment to becoming beacons of good food. Food for Life is already certifying over 1.7 million meals a day, including 1 million meals a day at our Silver and Gold standards, and verifying compliance with the Government’s own Balanced Scorecard. We look forward to continuing to work with the HCA and NHS Trusts to achieve record and promote a step change in hospital food over the next three years.”

Find out more about Food for Life’s work in hospitals here.