Labour pledges new legal standard for hospital meal spending
A Labour government would set a new legal benchmark for the quality of hospital food in England and Wales, the party has announced, as it emerged some trusts spend just £3 on patients a day.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth will today say food standards will have to match those set for schools if Labour reaches power, as he addresses a Hospital Caterers’ Association event in Newport.
He said patient care was not “just about medicines, bandages, treatments and surgical procedures” but must also consider “nutrition and hydration”.
New research by Labour shows the Gloucester Royal Hospital spent £2.61 a day feeding patients in 2016/17, while Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot spent £39.60.
Some 13 hospital trusts spent less than £5 a day on patient meals, with the national bill for feeding 144 million inpatients hitting £560m - or £11.05 per meal on average.
Meanwhile, the number of people admitted to hospital with malnutrition as a primary or secondary diagnosis has soared by 122% since 2010, with malnutrition a factor in 351 deaths in hospital care.
Mr Ashworth will say: “Patient care isn’t just about medicines, bandages, treatments and surgical procedures, it’s about nutrition and hydration as well.
“And yet we have allowed a situation where some hospitals according to the official data are spending less than £3 a day on patient meals.
“Unlike schools and prisons there are no mandatory minimum requirements for hospital meals, so the next Labour government will substantially increase investment in our NHS to improve patient care including providing the nutritious meals patients deserve.”
He will add: “Labour will place hospital food standards on the same legal basis as school food standards, to ensure hospitals meet mandatory minimum standards for the food served to patients, staff and visitors and these standards should be independently monitored and enforced.”
School food standards dictate meals must provide high-quality meat, poultry or oily fish, fruit and vegetables and bread, other cereals and potatoes.
Drinks with added sugar, crisps, chocolate or sweets are banned, as is serving more than two portions of deep-fried, battered or breaded food a week.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Whilst food in hospitals is given a rating of 9 out of 10 by patients, we know nutrition is a vital part of recovery.
"That’s why we have already introduced the first ever legally-binding food standards in the history of the NHS, and continue to press for high standards.”