Good hospital food is the best medicine, and the NHS can’t afford not to provide it

08 November 2013

A new bill will be introduced to the House of Lords for debate today (8 November 2013) setting mandatory quality standards for all hospital patient meals including standards on nutrition and minimum standards of production. The Campaign for Better Hospital Food has also today published new figures showing the government spends more on nutritional supplements for hospital patients than on food served to them during their stay.

The Soil Association believe that while nutritional supplements may have an important role to play for nutritionally at-risk patients, it should – as the name implies - be supplementary to the role of good, nutritious hospital food.

Susannah McWilliam, workplace health and hospitals project manager said; “Food in hospitals is a public health issue, after all the aim for many patients is to get home and stay well. £10.9 billion is already spent by the NHS each year on treating diet related disease, and this is set to rise steeply. The NHS cannot afford to ignore the role that hospitals can play in prevention alongside cure, and overlook the persistent problem of highly variable hospital food standards – and the unhelpful messages this sends out - in their own hospitals. Indeed, research carried out by Sustain found that 67% of NHS staff would be unhappy to eat the food that they serve to patients.”

Prioritising hospital food and setting high food standards doesn’t have to place short term pressure on NHS budgets. Hospitals with food accredited by the Food for Life Catering Mark are doing so for a lower than average spend – proof that great hospital food can be affordable too. The benefits are felt by British farmers too, with a £3 social return on investment for every £1 spent on Food for Life Catering Mark menus, mostly in the form of new contracts and jobs for local food producers.

The Soil Association – in common with patients everywhere – would like to see good quality hospital food become the norm rather than the exception. The Soil Association, as a member of Sustain's Campaign for Better Hospital Food, supports the call in the Cumberlege Bill for mandatory nutrition standards in hospitals in England, in line with what has already been implemented in Wales.
We also believe in rewarding excellence, and welcome the steps being taken by the NHS to encourage hospitals to make continuous improvement via the Food for Life Catering Mark Bronze, Silver and Gold standards and to open up their food service to our independent inspections.

We also know that food standards are not the whole story. Food must reach patients hot and appetising and older patients must be supported to eat well. The Food for Life Partnership, led by the Soil Association, is working to support better food in hospitals that offers patients the best possible chance of recovery through the provision of nutritious, appetising and healthy meals. Let’s get food on the plate that staff are proud to serve and that encourages patients, where they are able, to enjoy a great meal rather than a nutritional supplement.

Costs for Catering Mark hospital food per patient per day
· Hinchingbrooke Hospital ( Hinchingbrooke Hospital NHS Trust) = £7.30 - Bronze Catering Mark
· Nottingham City Hospital (Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust) = £8.67 – Bronze Catering Mark
· Queens Medical Centre (Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust) = £9.29 – Bronze Catering Mark
· Southmead Hospital (North Bristol NHS Trust) = £8.10 – Silver Catering Mark
· Frenchay Hospital (North Bristol NHS Trust) = £7.40 – Silver Catering Mark

1. Lady Cumberlege’s Hospital Food Bill is called the Health and Social Care (Amendment) (Food Standards) Bill and is available to read at
2. Campaign for Better Hospital Food is calling for mandatory hospital food standards, see
3. The figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s ‘Estates Returns Information Collection’ annual report for 2012/13, published– 15th Oct 13. Every Trust and Hospital must report on key issues annually, including a section on hospital food.
4. Figures taken from the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s ‘Estates Returns Information Collection’ annual report for 2012/13

The Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark is an independent endorsement which guarantees freshly prepared and healthy menus outside of the home in nurseries and schools as well as in hospitals, universities and the work place. The Bronze, Silver and Gold tiers encourage caterers to make step-by-step progress to improve the food they serve, ensuring meals are freshly prepared, free from trans fats and undesirable additives and that menus meet nationally recognised nutrition standards. The Silver and Gold Standards recognise food providers who are taking further steps to serve local, environmentally and ethically sourced food, and to make healthy eating easier.


For further information, please contact:
Natasha Collins-Daniel - Press Office Manager – 0117 914 2448 / 07827 925380 / @SoilAssociation
Bridget Everett - Events and Communications Officer- 0117 987 4582

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