Bill introduced to press for better hospital food

The House of Lords is to introduce a Bill that would set mandatory quality and production standards for all hospital patient meals, in line with Farmers Weekly’s recent Get Better, Get British campaign.

Tory peer Lady Cumberlege will introduce the Hospital Food Bill for debate on Friday, 8 November.

She said hospital food in England did not have to meet mandatory standards but the majority of food served in public sector institutions in the UK did.

“It is especially clear to patients and their families that something needs to be done to improve hospital food. One simple way to do this is to require all patient meals to meet minimum standards of quality, like those that exist for school food and prison food. The government is busy working on legislation in a number of areas, so I wanted to introduce this Bill to help them to address an urgent issue of concern,” said Lady Cumberlege.

Hospital food logo

Farmers Weekly’s Get Better, Get British campaign, launched in the summer, called on the government to press authorities to increase the amount of British food served in hospitals.

The campaign also urged the government to roll out and make mandatory the Government Buying Standards for food served in prisons and government departments to the National Health Service. The standards would help stop cheap imported food undermining better quality British produce and give UK farmers a chance to compete for a bigger share of the £500m annual spend on food for patients.

The campaign included a Freedom Of Information request to more than 200 British hospitals.

The information request showed that just two-thirds of hospital food was British and the rest was shipped from countries across the world.

Campaign director Jonathan Riley said a key factor in the campaign was to show how some hospitals were acting as beacons of excellence in buying locally and pumping millions of pounds into the local economy.

“By comparing the costs of the 200 hospitals we successfully showed that those buying locally were among the most cost effective, busting the myth that buying British is expensive and bad for the taxpayer.”

A separate and long-running initiative, the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, has also been lobbying successive governments.

The Bill seeks to have mandatory standards introduced to ensure that meals are nutritious and made to minimum standards of production. Ninety-seven national organisations, including the Royal College of Physicians, Patients Association, British Dietetic Association and the British Heart Foundation, are calling on David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt to give government support to the legislation.

Co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said Alex Jackson said that as many as 50,000 people a year could be dying with malnutrition in NHS hospitals in England and the majority of patients admitted to hospital lose weight during their stay.

Mr Jackson revealed that hospitals in England spend more on nutrition supplements than food.

“In 2012 the NHS spent more than £300 million on nutritional supplements for patients who are malnourished, have specific dietary requirements or are lacking in nutrients like vitamins and fibre, yet spent less than this amount on food for patients,” Mr Jackson said.

“Nutritional supplements are routinely prescribed to hungry patients who are not eating hospital food because of its poor quality. It is far better for patients to be nourished by enjoyable food than by pills administered as medicine, and it would save the NHS money too. Lady Cumberlege has done a fantastic job to introduce vital legislation to improve hospital food. It would be beyond belief for the government not to support it.”

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