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Hospitals to have mandatory food standards

Published on 28 August 2014 11:01 PM

Mandatory food standards will be written into the NHS contract for the first time as part of a wide-ranging drive to raise the quality of food in hospitals across the country.

A new report from the Hospital Food Standards Panel, led by Age UK Chairman Dianne Jeffrey CBE  DL, has been published today and recommends 5 legally-binding food standards for the NHS.


The panel selected the mandatory requirements from over 50 food quality standards after working with a range of organisations including royal colleges and nutritional experts. They require hospitals to:

  • screen patients for malnutrition and ensure all patients have a food plan
  • take steps to ensure patients get the help they need to eat and drink, including initiatives such as protected meal times where appropriate
  • have canteens that promote healthy diets for staff and visitors, ensuring food offered complies with Government recommendations on salt, saturated fats and sugar
  • source food in a sustainable way so that it is healthy, good for individuals and for our food industry.

The requirements will now be included in the NHS Standard Contract - making them legally-binding for hospitals.

Hospitals that do not follow the guidance recommended by the panel would be in breach of their commissioning contract (usually held with a Clinical Commissioning Group), and commissioners will be able to take contractual action against them.

The CQC will use a range of information, including the patient inspection data, to spot potential problems with food and to determine which hospitals need closer inspection of their food practices.

Hospital food to be rated online

In addition to the panel's compulsory standards, it has also recommended all hospitals develop a food and drink policy that aims to encourage healthy eating, high-quality food production, sustainability and excellent nutritional care.

Complementing the new standards, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has announced hospitals will for the first time be ranked on the NHS Choices website for the quality of their food.

The latest patient inspections data has been published on NHS Choices and shows how each hospital performs on a number of measures, such as the quality and choice of food, the availability of fresh fruit, choice at breakfast and the cost of food services per person per day.

Dianne Jeffrey talks about the hospital food standards report

In this video, Dianne Jeffrey, Chairman of Age UK and Panel Chair, talks about the aims of the panel and why it proposed the new food standard guidelines.

Food 'important part' someone's medical care

Dianne Jeffrey said: ‘Being in hospital is often a very worrying experience and it can be made worse when the food is unfamiliar or unappetising and you have no control over what and when you eat and drink.

‘Whilst hospitals are not 5-star restaurants, it's important that food and drink is tasty, nourishing and thoughtfully presented so that people can eat as well possible.

‘Getting hospital food and drink right is critical and should also be considered an important part of someone's medical care.

‘Malnutrition and dehydration pose a real risk for patients if they go unnoticed and untreated. We know malnourished people will take longer to recover and suffer from more complications. No hospital can afford to neglect this essential part of their care.

‘I believe these recommendations will help busy hospital staff make sure patients get appetising and nutritious food that they want to eat and are given the help they need to do so.'

'It's time for the NHS to set a clear example'

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, said: ‘We are making the NHS more transparent, giving patients the power to compare food on wards and incentivising hospitals to raise their game.

‘Many hospitals are already offering excellent food to their patients and staff. But we want to know that all patients have nourishing and appetising 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.'

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said: ‘It is time for the NHS to set a clear example in providing healthier food for our patients, visitors and also our hardworking staff.

‘That's why NHS England has agreed to include hospital standards in the next NHS Contract, which will be published later this year.'

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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