Hospital patient with food

Better food to be served across NHS hospitals

Tastier, healthier and better-quality meals are set to be served for millions of NHS patients and staff following an independent review of hospital food, led by a panel of advisers including chef and restaurateur Prue Leith.

The review, which has been published today, includes recommendations on how NHS trusts can prioritise food safely and provide more nutritious meals to both staff and patients.

The government has today announced it will establish an expert group of NHS caterers, dietitians and nurses to take forward the recommendations made in the report and decide on next steps. These include:

  • Advancing hospital kitchens so a 24/7 service can be provided to everyone; from a hot drink and a snack in the middle of the night to a hot meal for new mums in a maternity ward or for patients hungry after a long fast due to surgery, plus facilities for staff to store, prepare and eat food at any time during the day or night
  • Bringing in digital menus and food ordering systems which can factor in a patient’s dietary and cultural requirements, and nutritional needs. This will improve communication between dietitians and caterers, reduce food waste and provide patients with the right food for recovery
  • Establishing national professional standards for NHS chefs with mandatory professional development, including appropriate compulsory food hygiene and allergen training
  • Increase the role of nurses, dietitians, caterers and staff wellbeing leads in overseeing food services so that nutritious meals are part of a patient’s recovery plan

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “This pandemic has demonstrated more than ever the importance of good food and proper nutrition. We must all prioritise our health and be empowered to eat well, whether we’re at home or in hospital. This impressive report shows the way to good hospital food for all - patients, staff and visitors.

“Across the NHS and in the 40 new hospitals we are set to build I want to ensure - with Prue’s help - that we deliver really good hospital food. Alongside our new obesity strategy to improve the nation’s diet, the NHS is leading by example when it comes to public health.”

Restaurateur, celebrity chef and television presenter Prue Leith CBE, said: “The review provides best-in-class examples of how hospitals can serve delicious, nutritious and nicely presented meals on a budget.

“Food is not only important to health, but to morale. Hospital mealtimes should be a moment of enjoyment and a pleasure to serve. They should inspire staff, patients and visitors to eat well at home.”

Philip Shelley, Chair of the hospital food review, said: “Just as our staff need the right tools to do their job, we also need to ensure that they have the nutrition and hydration they require to perform their crucial roles.

“The wellbeing of our NHS staff is vital because it affects their mental and physical health as well as the quality of care they deliver for patients. A lack of nutritious food and drink can contribute to feelings of stress and lack of control in the workplace.”

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NHE May/June 2024

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