Response to Sustain’s Better Hospital Food campaign about introducing mandatory standards for hospital food

Department of Health’s response to Sustain’s Better Hospital Food campaign about introducing mandatory standards for hospital food

The Department welcomes Sustain’s interest in hospital food, as the Secretary of State has recently announced a new focus on this important area of patient care.  The ‘Improving Hospital Food’ project highlights eight fundamental principles that patients should expect from hospital food.  One of the principles is that Government Buying Standards for Food (GBSF) should be adopted where practical and supported by procurement practices.  These standards address nutrition, sustainability and animal welfare.

The Department is working closely with the NHS, Age UK, The Patients Association, The British Dietetic Association (BDA), The British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN), The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA), The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and The Soil Association on this matter.  Discussions have taken place on whether it would be more effective to make the standards mandatory or for local consideration.  The long-term aim is for the standards to be adopted by the NHS across the board, but this can be achieved by providing the right environment for NHS trusts to adopt them, rather than simply enforcing them as mandatory.

Hospitals should take all reasonable steps to ensure that patients have healthy food that takes into consideration individual patient needs.  Standards alone can only achieve so much, so these standards have not been introduced in isolation but will be supported by the introduction of incentives to reward excellence in the delivery of hospital food.  This will be measured by a new system of patient-led assessments that evaluate hospital food alongside privacy and dignity, cleanliness and general maintenance.  These assessments will also embed the aims of the Improving Hospital Food project in policy, making it more sustainable in the long term.

Patient feedback is key to improving quality in the NHS, which is why the Department is introducing the Friends and Family test.  By April 2013, all providers of NHS services will be asking a simple question to all patients in acute inpatient wards and A&E departments: whether they would recommend the service they have used to their friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment.  The Friends and Family Test will help drive up quality by giving providers timely patient feedback to improve their services where they are falling short.

Ministers will be talking to NHS representatives about the aims of the Improving Hospital Food project and acting on what is realistic, practical and most importantly what is best for patients, staff and visitors.

Last updated: 12 December 2012

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