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For the very first time, legally-binding steps have been taken to improve the quality of food and drinks in NHS hospitals, following a heavily critical report to the Government from the Hospital Food Standards Panel.

The independent report by the Panel, headed by Dianne Jeffrey, Chairman of Age UK, was conducted with assistance from numerous organisations that included royal hospitals and expert nutritionists. It highlighted the very poor quality of food and catering in many hospitals across the UK, and announced that five minimum standards will be written into the NHS Standard Contract in order to improve hospital food dramatically.

Prioritising Patient Nutrition

These new mandatory standards prescribe specific foods and drinks that all hospitals must provide to staff, patients and visitors, such as fish twice weekly, tap water, and cooked rice, potatoes and vegetables without salt. In addition to being healthier, more nutritious and more appetizing, hospital food must be ‘culturally and socially appropriate’, and also sustainable with a dramatically increased quantity of seasonal produce and Fair Trade tea and coffee.

The standards imposed by the Hospital Food Standards Panel also address patient malnutrition, as all patients will be assessed when they are admitted and staff given extra responsibility to ensure that their patients are fed properly and on time, and have access to food when they need it.

Above all, these standards underline that good food is an integral part of a patient’s hospital experience and that it is crucial to their recovery and general well-being. Poor patient nutrition can have a knock-on effect to hospitals as it can extend healing times or even place patients at risk of severe complications.

The Power of Patient Choice

Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, threw his support behind the new standards with an announcement that hospitals will now be rated for their food quality on the NHS Choices website.

The results of patient food inspections on each individual hospital have been published on the site, and reveal how each hospital performed in a number of areas, including choice, the availability of fresh fruit and other food between meal times, breakfast options, and food costs. This bold move reinforces its importance of quality hospital food, as it empowers patients to make decisions about their care based on the food standards at an individual hospital.

“We are making the NHS more transparent, giving patients the power to compare food on wards and incentivising hospitals to raise their game”, Jeremy said in a statement about the hospital ratings. “Many hospitals are already offering excellent food to their patients and staff. But we want to know that all patients have nourishing and appetizing food to help them get well faster and stay healthy, which is why we're introducing tough new mandatory standards for the first time ever.”

There will be tangible penalties for hospitals that fail to comply with the standards too; they will be considered to be in breach of their commissioning contract and therefore could face action from their commissioning company.

If you’d like to know more about the standards imposed by the Hospital Food Standards Panel, you can read the report on the Government website here


Lockhart Catering on 11 November 2014 1:32 AM

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