Monday, 21 March 2011
The figures speak for themselves
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.'
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