Monday, 21 March 2011

The figures speak for themselves

Prisoners get more money spent on their meals than NHS hospital patients, shocking figures have revealed. The average prison meal costs £2.10 but cutbacks mean some NHS hospitals allocate as little as £3 per person a day - just £1 a meal.

Figures suggest the food budgets overall have dropped by as much as 62 per cent at hospitals in England compared with five years ago. The NHS spends around half a billion pounds on catering every year, but it has been hit by a welter of complaints about poor-quality food and malnutrition, especially among the elderly. Around one in five trusts has reduced spending on food since 2004-05, with 36 out of 191 cutting back, according to figures analysed from NHS Information Centre data.

At least 20 trusts spend less than £5 a day feeding each patient, with St George's Hospital, south London, spending least - just £1.04 on each meal or £3.11 a day. It used to spend £6.67 a day, but a spokesman said the figure did not include snacks or late meal requests. Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust spends £1.11 per meal.

The biggest percentage drop in spending took place at the Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in West Sussex, where there has been a 62 per cent drop over the past five years. The amount spent per day went down from £10.97 in 2004-05 to £4.11 last year.  A hospital spokesman said the cash only covered the cost of providing three main meals and a drink.

There was a 61 per cent cut at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospital, down from £23.67 to £9.06 per patient per day and at Ealing Hospital, London, down from £10.37 to £4 last year.

Roger Goss, co-director of Patient Concern, said the problem would only get worse as hospital struggle to make efficiency savings. He said: 'Hospital food is a disaster. Each hospital is allowed to decide how much it spends but the Department of Health should set a minimum amount and ringfence the budget.' A spokesman for the British Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN), said it was 'outrageous' that NHS hospital patients fared worse at mealtimes than criminals. She said: 'Nutrition care in hospitals is about more than just the food quality, and not enough is being spent on it.'

She said screening, assessment and support were all vital, as patients needed to be treated as individuals and where necessary given help to eat the food put in front of them. We're wasting money in the long run because of a failure to get these policies right. This isn't a new problem, there have been disjointed attempts to address it but the problem remains that it's an easy target for the finance team,' she added.

TV chef Lloyd Grossman, who headed a £40million revamp of NHS menus in 2000 that was shelved after he quit five years later, revealed last month that he was blocked by a 'chronic lack of common sense'. The former presenter of BBC's Masterchef, who was not paid for his involvement in the initiative, said patients were suffering unnecessarily because of poor hospital food. He was continually frustrated in his efforts to get healthy and tasty recipes into hospitals and blamed lack of political willpower.

The Daily Mail's Dignity for the Elderly campaign has repeatedly highlighted abuses caused by underfeeding and poor nursing practice in hospitals and care homes.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: 'It is important that patients are fed well so their health improves. Hospitals make their own decisions about their food and therefore, over time, the amount spent will differ between hospitals. Patients must not be left without enough to eat or drink. The Care Quality Commission has tough enforcement powers for cases where proper standards are not being met.'

© Daily Mail


  1. THE CQC has tough enforcement powers but some hospitals are getting more second chances than some well fed persistant offenders. And we could describe many hospital trusts as persistantly offending...the patient.
    Lloyd Grossman's words, a 'chronic lack of common sense'. This seems to resonate an absolute truth on so many levels.
    Thankfully i havn't had to function on hospital food.
    My hospital experience was brief but hideous. I didn't reach feeding time. I was falling over myself to get out of the Essex cardio centre at Basildon Hospital. I could just about walk, i staggered out on a cocktail of drugs, trauma, dehydration and lousy treatment. Hell's fiery kitchen would have been a picnic in comparison for me.

    I sometimes wonder if these institutions function in the same dimension. They are certainly a law unto themselves.
    With many hospital bosses creaming off a starry role for themselves. Obviously at the expense of best practise and investment for the patient.
    The Nhs is so vast now and often over burdened, i think it's really important that people are empowered to make an informed decision on where they are treated. And report back on HOW they are treated. Poor food, poor treatment, abuse, all of that needs a place to hide to happen at all.
    LdV Essex.

  2. I do not believe there is poor nursing practice re. diet, but that there is a lack of nursing staff levels to ensure good nutrition.

    Also does not help when hospital caterers do not understand what coeliac. vegan or MAOI diets are and send innappropriate food . . . at bets harming the patients long held ethics, at worst risking their lives :(

    nurse Heather

  3. I'm personally not surprised by this news story.

    It seems that if you are a prisoner you have more rights than anyone. I always thought that being locked up was meant to be a punishment, it seems it's just like a fully catered pontins holiday.

    Might be an idea for the government to introduce 'prison farms' where the prisoners grow/tend their own food, freeing up money that could be spent on the NHS catering.

    Hospital patients are not prisoners, they've done nothing wrong, so why are they getting worse food and treatment than convicted criminals?

    Crime certainly pays in britain these days, especially since the do-gooders, PC brigade and the 'uman rights muppets' got there nose into the public funding trough...

  4. nurse heather stop kidding yourself your living in cloud coocoo land! nurses don;t know how to care anymore its a joke ont all of them of course but alot of them!

  5. In the bad old days hospital food something available only to those who could afford it as part of their stay, the poor were fed their own amputations, natch. The logic was that '..if we don't finish you, starvation will..', and the logic still holds, albeit twisted into its current paradox.
    I was hospitalised on Saturday here in Spain and it's been a bit of an education. People have long joked about hospital food, ie 'hey for funny old uncle Ed who's never going to change his dear old fartin' 'n cussin' 'n child-molestin' ways, bless..' In a world officially rinsed clean of baccy smoke, homophobia and racism it's still ok to joke about ginger people (which I'm not) (thank the eternal chestnut-locked creator) .. and just don't get me started on heating and air-con (jacket indoors in summer, shirtsleeves in winter) and SUV's.. on a planet where everybody's a finger-waggin' authority on global warming. Paradox then, and hypocrisy, erm, what's new? So yeah, hospital food.
    A doctor in Spain is an exceedingly bright person who has studied medicine for 6 years minimum, so why am I having to even comment to my ward doctor here, let alone feel obliged to try to convince her that a person,to maintain their health, never mind recuperate from illness, and according to any version of the burgeoning nutrition propoganda rammed down every throat requires a decent diet if they are to maintain their health. It's not that the food served here on the ward is prepared with a total lack of love --- in a country with a latin esteem of things culinary I get the feeling they've outsourced the meal preparation to Britain --- except I know the hospital food in the UK can only in fact be better than this, hellish as may be --- it's that there's something routinely sadistic at work in the kitchen here (like the offhand patronising by the nurses of my dying old ward neighbour here) and I'm led to suspect a conscious conspiracy of kitchen admin and hospital management to keep 'em sick and keep everybody in a job. A number of the regular summer forest fires here are widely supposed to be routinely set by firemen protecting their employment. But this rant wasn't supposed to be Spain-specific, and this is a country I very much love. The provision of fruit here in the ward, in a country where it grows literally in the street, is a very silly joke, amounting typically to a single tiny and very lonely apple with lunch. But I haven't started yet. In the hospital kitchen, I happen to know they keep a species of spicerack, in reverse; a row of test tubes some of which dedicated to the purpose of leeching all nuance of flavour from the food and others toward the installation of a varietry of undertastes -- taints you never dreamed and bearing no resemblance to anything you ever even sniffed this lifetime. They are of course, in line with history olefactory notes extracted from the decay of unclaimed mortuary items expressly for addition to hospital meals. Meanwhile anything prepackaged, the margarine and jam supplied with the (actually decent) (and white by default) breadroll, the 'yoghurt' is ALL undertaste --- don't even look for the actual flavour --- and of a provenance so shamelessly, cheaply artificial as to be inedible even to me. And I eat cardboard. It is made, clearly, specifically, cynically, and hatefully for the captive hospital public, you realise, because nothing like this could survive on the open market.
    The daily apple normally arrives wet from the wash. Today it came dry. I took it (silly little me) for granted it had taken the usual washing and been dried. I ate the dang thing, pretty much whole, given the hunger. I now have a sudden headache and all kinds of burning weirdness of sensation to the mouth and lips. That'll be the undertaste marked 'pesticide'.

    Hello radiography.