Hospital Food in England to Get Revamp
Apart from the obvious medical worries, one of things that people don’t like about an overnight stay at hospital is the prospect of having to eat hospital food.
But as of later this year, not only will hospitals in England be enforced to raise the standards of the food they serve to their patients through legally-binding contracts, they will also be ranked on the meals they prepare. This will mean being marked on certain criteria, and the rankings will be posted on the NHS Choices website.
Hospitals will be assessed on the quality of their food and the range of options available to patients. For example, there should be at least one hot meal option for breakfast. Fresh fruit and food should be available between meals and the hospital menu needs to have been approved by a dietician, to ensure that a healthy diet is being promoted to both patients and staff.
Fish will be offered to patients at least twice a week, and any potatoes, rice or vegetables should be cooked without salt, as well as fruit options making up half of the desserts on offer. On top of this, tap water will be available to patients on request, unless stipulated for a medical reason.
When a patient is admitted to hospital, they will be assessed for malnutrition and given a personal food plan based on allergies and diet. Hospital staff will also have the greater responsibility of ensuring that patients get the help they need to physically eat and drink.
“Patients say the quality of food at their hospital is one of the most important things in their stay,” said Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, explaining that patients provided with healthy meals tend to recover more quickly and thus stay in hospital for a shorter time. This, in turn, costs the NHS less, “so there are lots of reasons why this is very important.”
Hospital canteens, which sell food and drinks to staff and patients, as well as visitors, will also have to comply with the new rules. This means ensuring that the food they sell have lower levels of sugar, salt and fat, as well as providing other healthier options for their customers.
Mr Hunt said that the new hospital food standards are part of a plan towards making the NHS more transparent to the public. Not only does it mean giving patients the chance to compare the food available to them on different wards, but also providing hospitals with even more of an incentive to raise the standards of their meals.
“Many hospitals are already offering excellent food to their patients and staff,” he added, “but we want to know that all patients have nourishing and appetising food to help them get well faster and stay healthy.”