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Hospital food concerns trigger standards review

Published on 08 November 2013 12:01 AM

Growing concerns over the quality and management of hospital food have triggered a Government review of standards.

The new Hospital Food Standards Panel to be announced by the Government on Friday 8 November is being led by Age UK's Chairman Dianne Jeffrey with the support of Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter MP.


A survey of adult inpatients show 36% of hospital patients who need help to eat say they are not getting the assistance they need.

In addition, more than 30 million hospital meals are thrown out in England each year according to the latest statistics.

1 in 3 older people entering hospital malnourished

With an estimated 1 in 3 older people entering hospital malnourished or at risk of malnourishment, endangering their health and recovery, it is vital to ensure hospitals are doing all they can to provide additional help and encouragement with eating and drinking to all those who need it.

Furthermore, for many patients the lack of choice and control over eating and drinking, unappealing meals and poorly thought out presentation can make the experience of eating and drinking in hospital deeply distressing.

Concerns have also been raised about the nutritional value of hospital meals in addition to calls for meals to be sustainably procured and to adhere to high animal welfare standards.

The panel will be made up of experts from the food and farming industry and across healthcare and will review guidance and standards governing hospital meals throughout the NHS.

Food packaging (which can be too difficult for sick and frail older people to open), nutritional value, presentation and reducing food waste will be central aspects of the panel's investigation. The panel will also examine ways to ensure high quality animal welfare is routine in the preparation of meals and the link between hospital food and nursing care.

Good nutrition and hydration 'critical elements' of care

Dianne Jeffrey, CBE DL, Chairman of Age UK, has been at the forefront of the Malnutrition Task Force's campaign to stamp out malnutrition and dehydration affecting 1.3 million older people.

She said: ‘Eating and drinking well is such a crucial part of life, not just because of its nutritional content but also because of the comfort and enjoyment good food can bring. So to find yourself in hospital without control over what and when you eat and drink can be very distressing.

‘Good nutrition and hydration are critical elements of hospital care and should be considered as important as medical treatment. Malnutrition and dehydration can be a real risk for patients if they go unnoticed and untreated.

‘Whilst hospitals are not 5-star restaurants, it's important that food and drink is nutritious, appetising and thoughtfully presented so that people can eat and enjoy it.'

The panel will report its findings in the autumn next year. They will be used as the basis for new Government and NHS England guidance and regulations regarding hospital food.

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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