Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Words fail me

What on earth is it supposed to be?
A friend sent me this photo last night. It's a 'meal' that was served up yesterday to a child who had just undergone an appendectomy. Poole Hospital should hang its head in utter shame. I don't even know what it's supposed to be.

Since my upcoming documentary on hospital food was announced, the propaganda machine of the NHS and the Hospital Food Caterers' Association has swung into action. I've experienced smear tactics and a robust response from the hospital caterers on the possible content of my programme, even before it's been shown! Some feathers have been seriously ruffled.

I make absolutely no apology for naming and shaming hospitals that serve muck like this or where patients aren't even afforded the dignity of receiving adequate food and drink. The more these vested interests and arrogant forces have a go at me, the more I shall do to make sure they are held to account for the scandalous waste of public money and the nutritional neglect of patients. I won't be bullied or intimidated into shutting up.


  1. You know when the 'dark forces' start to react you are right on target~struck a raw nerve so to speak.
    More power to your elbow Sir!

    The tinned spag I can get from the pic but who knows what the rest is.

    Cordon Blah cooking.

  2. I can't even work out if this was before or after eating.

  3. Sarah - London8 February 2011 15:06

    Please ETM - some of us are of a more sensitive nature - hence a little warning required - perhaps "contains graphic images" or whichever such phrase.

    All best wishes, Cats' Mother

  4. You're right, Sarah. I'm sorry. I should have given some warning but I was very angry.

    I cannot understand how people whose job it is to heal could place this vile plate of 'stuff' under the nose of a child who'd been through a traumatic operation. This was his first meal after an appendectomy for an acute appendicitis. I imagine the poor boy had been suffering sickness and severe stomach pains prior to the operation and probably hadn't eaten for some days. So this is what they give him. couldn't they have even cleaned the plate up a bit? Perhaps some soup and a light sandwich would have been better straight after a major operation. Are they stupid?

    I'm off for a lie down in a dark room, I'm that angry.

  5. Sarah - London8 February 2011 15:47

    Even a boiled egg with soldiers would have been:
    1. easier and
    2. preferably and probably with more nutrional value and less cock-up factor

  6. Do hospital staff eat 'hospital food'?

    If not, maybe meals would improve if they had to.

  7. I don't think they're allowed to serve boiled eggs... elf and safety!

  8. I had exactly the same reaction when I went public and revealed the dreadful dinners served in my schools to children. Questions were asked about my motives and rumours about me owning a catering company were spread to smear the campaign.

    We were able to see it through and happily we won a new kitchen for EVERY primary school in the borough, kicked out the old caterers out and helped choose new caterers with a radically improved contract.

    Please have a look at Jackies school food blog if you want to see what the improved meals look like. Not perfect but big improvement!

    keep up the good work. Future patients will thank you for it!

  9. Hmm! hasn't changed much since I was in Poole about 15 years ago, in fact I'm still recovering and this photo has bought it all back! :)

  10. Don't think you have nothing to lose. Just wait until the next time that you are in the grasp of an NHS hospital....

  11. was thinking it might be an insurance policy. If I died in suspicious circumstances it wouldn't reflect well on the NHS, would it?

  12. rhonda woodburn9 February 2011 03:42

    i cant believe they fed this to a child , this must be some kind of a joke your playing on us really traction man , i cant even try to guess what that grey matter is except maybe zombie puke .the picture didnt come with any clue what it was?

  13. It's no joke, Rhonda. Someone thought this was suitable to serve up to a sick child. This sort of thing has to stop. Would we serve second-rate drugs to poorly children? Would we risk their live by using unsterilised needles? So why do we feed them sub-standard food? Someone please tell me.

  14. rhonda woodburn9 February 2011 19:51

    someone over there needs to come over here and spend some time with our hospital dietitians and see how its supposed to be done . its not the best food in the world , but its a damn sight better then what you people are getting . america has its faults , but we arent starving and torturing our hospital patients at least.

  15. Giving that slop to a child after an operation, is bordering on the abuse argument.

    I as a parent would have demanded to see the hospital manager, or who ever is in charge ,and demanded an explanation, as to why a recovering child was expected to eat that disgusting meal, and who`s perverse idea in the kitchen was it to add gravy with spaghetti and sauce..??

    These hospitals should be sue`d for abuse, because that is what it is, abuse.

    I am as angry as you are ETM, we read of so many deaths in these hospitals due to neglect, especially neglect of the elderly, something has to be done.

    As i said before, the government are blind as to the state of the NHS, if only a few members who are not in the spotlight ,would take time out and stay in an NHS hospital as a patient for a week under a bogus name, just to witness what the ordinary patient has to endure, they would be shocked to the core.

    Fight the good fight ETM, we are behind you all the way, well i am anyway.

    P.S. How is the leg by the way , better i hope..?


  16. Looks like cottage pie or something like that? Is that mashed potato? I don't see why you'd want to have tinned spaghetti in tomato sauce right next to something with gravy.

  17. Dear TM, I was going to go out for tea tonight.... alas after seeing the conglomeration of mess my gastronic juices have revolted, I'm not positive that its even edible (or ever was) is it some kind of gruel? or a build up of toxic wastes?
    not even Oliver would want more.
    regards Yachydda.

  18. The reason that food like this is served is because the catering is contracted out and the bottom line is profit,just like the car parking at my local hospital which ranges from £3 for 2 hours to £10 for all day. On one occasion when my late wife was in hospital she was served ice cream on a hot plate. In her last months she flatly refused to be taken into hospital and she died where she wanted to be; in her own bed, in her own home cared for by those who loved her.

  19. Contracting out catering is a problem but hospitals with 'in house' catering can be bad too. I think the medical profession ignores nutrition and so bureaucrats see that as a green light to cut back.

  20. Unbelievable. I, like many of these comments, almost vomited when I saw that picture. My initial reaction was that it's a picture of either a) vomit or b) the appendix that had just been taken out. Every time I read your story I make my boyfriend promise that if I end up in hospital, no matter what I need at least one meal from an outside source each day. I know that's something your wife and family would have loved to afford on you but the distance was an issue - which it is for many people that unlike you aren't able to speak up. Luckily I live in (reasonably) close proximity to major hospitals in Melbourne, Australia so that family daily visits would be possible.

    What makes me even more angry about this meal being served to a child is: Currently in schools all around Australia parents are being given strict rules and guidelines on what food is and isn't allowed to be consumed by the child at school. It's all to do with reducing childhood obesity. Children must not have food in wrappers, no fruit juice - must drink water, no sweets or chocolate etc etc. They don't give parents the control to feed their children (and rather work more closely and personally and privately with those with childhood obesity issues) but yet when parents have very little control over providing their child with a meal - they are served THIS??? I refuse to believe that tin spaghetti has any nutritional value - unless you are severely deficient in salt.

    Keep up the awesome fight ETM. We support you. I can't wait to see your show online :-)

  21. Like many of your other fans I felt a bit sick when I saw that photo. There's a time and a place for tinned spaghetti which is down the loo NOW. As for the zombie puke, what a good phrase!

    I have noticed that there seems to be a rule that nothing to tempt the appetite should ever appear in and NHS hospital. I think the idea is to punish people for being ill.

    Please don't let anyone bully you into stopping your campaign. You've inspired a lot of people. There are a lot of respectable-looking crooks around and the more people who expose them the better.

    I do hope your leg is getting better all the time.

  22. well, I WAS going to go have breakfast...that is very revulsive. And I have a cast iron stomach for most stuff (vomit, feces & urine are my weakness--add whatever that dish is suppose to be).

    I suppose the nursing staff forgot that vomiting of any force after abdominal surgery is really not a 'good' thing.

    You keep up the fight XTM! It is obvious you are needed to shake a few trees over there. It is one thing to serve crap to adults but it is a contravention of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that the UK signed and are now legally liable for any contraventions. UK ratified it December 16, 1991

    Article 3.3 shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.
    Article 24.1 To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care;
    Article 24 (b) To ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care;
    Article 24 (c) To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, the application of readily available technology and through the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution;

    Just food for thought. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm#part1

  23. That looks absolutely disgusting.

  24. Hi,
    I've only just found this blog today! Can't believe you've 'slipped under the radar ' so to speak!
    I've spent a lot of time in hospital since I was a teen (20 years) and I've always had problems with hospital food. It's imperative that patients be given tempting food as many of my hospital stays have been lengthened purely because I was not eating correctly.
    God help you if you are a vegetarian or worse a vegan! I'm vegan at home but when I'm in hospital I'm veggie because they can't handle it and go into some kind of melt down where all you get to eat is rice with sweetcorn in it (I have pics)! My cholesterol went up significantly after my last stay because things with cheese in were the only veggie options.
    I too took lots of pics of the food I was served at various hospitals, and it became a standing joke amongst my family and friends; however it's a very serious point, we make sure that children eat balanced meals in school, yet we leave our sick and elderly (sometimes literally) starving and dehydrated.
    Wish there were something I could do to help your campaign. Is there?

  25. The best thing we can do to correct this problem is complain It's tough complaining when you're a patient or your loved ones are in hospital as the fear of reprisals is real. I've heard first hand of people being punished for complaining. The NHS is a monopoly that was set up in quite a different time. The rest of the world has moved on with health provision but we still try to patch this leaking ship.We don't tolerate monopolies in any other aspect of life... not even education. And yet we will not face up to the fact the the NHS is not a good provider of healthcare. As soon as anyone criticises this sacred cow they are accuse of wanting poor people and children to die. The argument is so emotive. I'm afraid I've come to the conclusion that the NHS is run for the benefit of management. Patients come a poor second.

  26. I totally agree with you TM. There is a closed culture within the NHS, that makes complaint almost impossible. As patients we are not helped by people such as the really obese man mentioned in one of your past posts who is suing the NHS for not giving him the right advice about eating too much. Many NHS staff think that you are just trying to get a quick payout. I complained about some treatment I received a couple of years ago which I believed made me ill. I was invited to meet with the head of the department and was treated with short shrift (being hustled into his office by a very huffy nurse almost like a prisoner of war). As soon as the surgeon realised that I just wanted to find out whether my assumptions were correct and just wanting to make sure that it didn't happen to anyone else, their attitude completely changed and I was politely treated and offered a cup of tea!
    I don't agree that the NHS is a monopoly, there are lots of options available to those who can pay, and the NHS are generally fantastic in an emergency situation, but changes need to be made where (as in all businesses in Britain) 'customer' (ie. the patient) service needs to come above all else. WE pay for this service and we have the right to be treated as human beings in hospital, which in long term care often does not happen.

  27. XTM - you have our full support. Should they torture you when you are in their hands, I am sure our followers in UK will come to your rescue. In any case, I am tempted to conclude that they would even attempt to bribe you with first class treatment the next time you end up in a NHS hospital.

  28. @Gareth's question:
    "Do hospital staff eat 'hospital food'?"

    The answer, at least in the Gloucestershire NHS foundation trust, is that staff are forbidden to eat hospital food under threat of disciplinary action, even if there is food left over which is about to be thrown away.
    The 'official line' seems to be that the staff would be 'robbing the NHS'.
    Posters have been seen in staff areas suggesting that such behaviour is 'fraud' and encouraging staff members to report anyone they see breaching the rules.

    Sounds a bit harsh, but it does mean that most NHS staff have no idea what the food actualy tastes like.

  29. This is ridiculous! The food is free for goodness sake. If you don't like it, why don't you go private??!! We are actually very lucky to have the NHS in this country and all people do is bitch and moan. I know for a fact that the hospital staff where I live have to pay for their meals while patients get it free!!

  30. I thought we paid for it with our National Insurance contributions? Why should we pay twice? Not surprised you sign yourself 'anonymous' when you make such an inflammatory statement.

  31. It's not free. Which part of tax and National Insurance do you not understand. It's people like you who think we should bow and scrape to the NHS that end up making it the patchy service that it is. If monopolies are so good for essential services... how come we don't have a National Food Service? Now go and crawl back under your stone.

  32. Yes of course I realize we pay tax, N.I. etc, but that hardly amounts to the thousands of pounds it would cost to have major surgery!

  33. Er... That's how insurance works! When you insure your car you don't pay a premium equivalent to the price of the car, do you? Using your logic we would insure our cars and then accept a shoddy repair because we'd only paid a premium of a few hundred quid.

  34. I thought health care wasn't a marketable commodity?! Yet you're comparing tax contributions to the insurance of a car. Would you prefer to have all medical resources privatized so those who can't afford, simply have to go without? The NHS has such a tight budget. Perhaps the government should raise taxes even more to provide the better quality food you're proposing.

  35. Have you any experience of other healthcare systems? In Germany everyone is compelled to take out health insurance. Those without the means to pay for it have it paid for them by the government. Then each patients can access healthcare on their own terms. We don't necessarily need to have a monopoly state provider.

  36. I would ask the nurse on call to taste it, serving up something that quite frankly looks like its been already eaten and spat back out again (probably doesnt taste much better either) is appalling and the NHS should be ashamed.

  37. That is absolutely disgusting, makes me feel sick even looking at it. A big thumbs up to what your doing :)

  38. I just heard on the program the food was made by Sodexo.No surprise there!
    A couple of years ago I was at an Army camp in Folkstone,the food was that bad after the first day,we all ate from the NAAFI or take aways.(And we were eating in the Officers mess!)
    You could have ran a car on the oil in the shepherds pie,the slop jockey behind the hotplate at breakfast leveled off the scoop of beans & scrambled egg (powdered) &,I kid you not here,split the meaty bit off the bacon & gave one of us the meat & the other the rindy bit!
    We paid extra for other stuff like salad,tea & coffee ect & even that we had to ask for daily.
    I & nearly every one else,suffered from indigestion & heartburn nearly every day.
    The Gurkhas went into the camp after us & stayed one night & then left!

  39. My daughter is type 1 diabetic, she is on an insulin pump. She has spent many periods in hospital, and while there I've had to bring all her food in. She is usually offered chips sausages . Pies etc, White bread sandwiches and other similar rubbish. I wouldn't feed the rubbish to my dogs. It's a disgrace. Let's get proper food cooked on site by chefs that give a damn. I wonder whose lining their pockets.

  40. Hospital food shown on this blog and on the tv prog I hope will make Sudexo cook meals better. At the end of the day if the hospital will only spent between £2.20 and £3.50 per day for 3 meals, tea & coffee the best you will ever get is pigs swill, It really is time our wonderful NHS got its act together, not only with the standard of meals but the care of patients who frequently end up with a a nice bowl of pig swill sitting at the foot of the bed out of reach. It aint good enough, and Sodexo and the hospital catering assoc need to stop the shit excuses and start addressing the problem!

  41. Poole Hospital has never been good where food is concerned amongst other things. When I was in there last a sandwich I was given had bread so stale you could see it was grey and could at any time start to grow mould. Inside the 'salad' sandwich was one very limp lettuce leaf that looked as if it had been sat on the bottom of the fridge for two weeks.
    I had to starve, there was no way I was eating that.

    That's not to mention being given a commode after a c-section smeared in someone else's excrement and when I finally made it to the loo's, there was blood all over the floors, toilet seats etc, it looked like they hadn't been cleaned in days.

  42. Traction man! im just watching the dispatches program on NHS food. Ive spent alot of time in various hospitals from london to cardiff and every one is the same when it comes to food standards.

    As you'd expect my appetite wasn't like normal during most stays, so its no wonder i'd loose weight or not eat too much. But i do remember many times when ive been on the up, feeling on the mend and wanting to eat and eat to get my energy up.. but i just cant get past about 3 mouthfulls of the processed stodge.

    Its a running joke on most wards as well as the familys of paients and I think its fantastic that you've had the smarts to get this going and get the issue noticed!


  43. i had major bowel operation almost two years ago,my first meal after my operation was a salad,and that had a rotten tomato in it,my consultant was furious that i had been given this,i ended up begging my consultant to let me come home only 3 days after my operation,as i could not stand being in there any longer.i had already lost over two stone prior to my operation,i went down to 6stone 3lbs ,it took me over a year to put the weight back on,i am limited to what i can eat now,due to removal of part of my bowel.

  44. Just watching yr prog.
    Apply all your comments to an NHS eating disorders unit which has just closed its kitchen and is now serving cooked chilled food. Patients are not allowed to recive food from outside and anyway and as they are "reluctant eaters" would not take it or ask for it anyway. Imagine the effect 12 months on cooked chilled slops for patients who are frail and very underweight (BMI 11) to start with. For these patients food IS their medicine - what sort of idiot Trust (CNWL) would impose this food on such a hospital, and what hope of recovery is there for the patients, who not only need calories and nutrition but who need to learn to love food

  45. That meal is just horrible! I can't believe that anyone could serve anything so disgusting! Where i live, the hospital food is lovely, and it is an NHS hospital! I wouldn't eat that meal if i were starving, as it makes me feel sick just looking at it! How could that type of meal give anybody any satisfaction after being in surgery? Can you even call it a meal? If anybody knows what is supposed to be, please post!

  46. I'm watching the program, and i'm glad somewhere does very good food!!!

  47. After watching this program tonight, im not suprised one bit about the food that is served in most hospitals today.I worked as a NHS cook from 1988-2002 at a large psychiatric hospital(till it closed) We served quality food which was mainly fresh(even the staff canteen was served fillet steak)But after transfering to a small general hospital that was PFI funded,it didnt even have a kitchen!!! Like in the documentory Mark said that food was prepared, cooked & frozen in Wales then transfered across country(btw im in Leeds) then heated up in trolleys...it is a joke to see it and i shit you not that it was the first time i had ever seen frozen..yes frozen Gravy & Custard.I remember one xmas where there wasn't enough food on the site and some patients had salad for xmas dinner.I have now left the NHS,There's no jobs for cooks in my local trust because there isnt any kitchens to work in.It's a bloody disgrace,they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  48. A good idea would be to divert one of the Patient FOOD “regeneration” trolleys to the staff dining room, and let them try to eat some of the food. I think that the standards would improve.
    What was shown on the program is fact – and some I have seen was far worse.

  49. Cheryl Emmanuel22 February 2011 00:22

    Excellent documentary - keep up the good work!

  50. WOW a truly excellent documentary. This took us back to last year when my dear Mum was in hospital, she went unfed for nearly 2 days "as they were understaffed". We had to be there 24/7 to feed and clean the room. Yes, we complained on several occassions to "PALS", but without much success. We have videos of the state of the room and the food which was left over the other side of the room out of reach, left to go cold, until they got round to her. Utterly disgusted in the treatment with which she received while in hospital. I hasten to add she was aged 95 and was treated with utter disrespect.
    So it is with my heart felt thanks that you are bringing the whole story to the fore.
    thank you

  51. I'm so pleased you have highlighted this very real problem. I spent nine days in hospital last year and simply could not eat the food. I survived on sandwiches that were left over from supper that the night staff brought me in the early hours. My operation resulted in me being on medication that made me feel nauseous so it was doubly important I was offered food that tempted me to eat. What I got was exactly as shown in your pictures - absolutely disgusting. I have no doubt that this appalling lack of proper nutrition contributed to my being in hospital for nine days instead of the usual five - I simply could not get well. I've got to go in again shortly for the same procedure but this time I'm paying to have the operation done privately in a hospital where they have an excellent chef and the meals and drinks are designed to get you better quickly, not only because they are nutritious but because they greatly improve your general well-being by being absulutely deliious. Surely someone in power at some point has to wake up to the fact that good food equals quicker healing and therefore will ultimately save the NHS money. This isn't rocket science.

  52. Further to my previous post I also think that you've highlighted this problem at exactly the right time. If David Cameron is to push through changes for the better then he needs as much information/ammunition as possible. The more people that complain, the better. I hope the newspapers run with this one until something's done. Anon (M)

  53. I have just had a knee replacement, the second in five years and the patient food at Chesterfield Royal Hospital is disgusting. I survived on digestive biscuits, fruit and boiled sweets. The food 5 years ago was just the same. Surgery, medication and nursing has come on leaps and bounds in 5 years but the food has not improved one bit. I was admitted to the Royal in the 80's, the food was second to none and was cooked on the premises. I would recommend anyone with prior knowledge of their admission to take in high protein food to help with their recovery. I think I know what I am talking about, I have C&G 706/1, 706/2. 711/1 and 711/2 cooking for the catering industry certificates.

  54. went to hospital to have my appendix out a couple of months ago, and i have lost quite a bit of weight, i forced down my first meal at the ward...


    i was vomiting and hacking for an hour after. they said it was bacterial!

  55. i dont even know what that is the fact that they can even serve that it terrable !

  56. Well done, Mark for highlighting this appalling and worsening problem. I have been a professional nurse all my life, and of recent years have had to watch my patients suffer for want of proper food. Management don't give a damn, so long as all their boxes are ticked, and costs are minimal. They need to wake up and recognise that the patient is the most important person in the hospital, and that proper food is a vital part of good care.

  57. Glenn Richards13 January 2012 18:20

    I had to stay for two weeks in poole hospital during May 2011 for heart-failure.
    All the meals provided were SUPERB with comprehensive menu-choice and 3 different portion sizes !! i even took some menu"s home as proof.

    Thank you with ALL-MY-HEART to this hospital.
    ( Pun intended !! )