It has been announced that hospitals will obtain ranking based on the quality of their food as new standards are introduced.
This move comes after patients tweeted a host of pictures showing unappealing and inadequate meals.
Hospital canteens which sell to visitors, patients and staff will also have to comply with rules on sugar, salt and fat, and offer healthy options. However, coffee bars, junk food outlets and shops will not have to adhere to these new rules, which mean burgers, supersized sugar-filled drinks, crisps and chocolates will still be made available.
Under the new rules, hospitals will receive evaluation on a range of factors and will be ranked on the quality of the food they serve. These results will be available to the public on the NHS Choices website.
The first set of results released by the Department of Health indicates that Alastair Farquharson Centre, North East London; Tonbridge Cottage Hospital and Witney Community Hospital in Oxford, are among the worst hospitals countrywide based on their food quality.
Lee Mill Hospital, a secure recover 12-bed unit based in Plymouth, was ranked as the worst nationally, with a food quality rating of 35%.
The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that they are giving the NHS more transparency and allowing patients to compare food received on the wards, as well as offering hospitals incentives if they improve their service.
Hospital contracts will now state that staff should identify malnourished patients and provide them with a food plan. They should ensure that all patients have particular mealtimes whilst nursing tests and care is suspended. Staff members are to aid those who need it and hospital canteens have to comply with the recommendations provided on fat, sugar and salt. The food they serve should be sourced in a sustainable manner to ensure that it is healthy.
The hospitals that do not comply with these rules may face fines.
There are those who feel that the rules are not stringent enough.
The coordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, Alex Jackson, resigned earlier this year in objection to the refusal of the government to change the rules into a new law. He felt that Jeremy Hunt had betrayed them as he had stated that ‘legally-binding’ hospital food standards were to be introduced.
He said they want to see food standards in hospitals set down in legislation, however the government has still refused to do so and has only committed to including the set standards in the commissioning contracts of the NHS. He said that these are long documents full of written lines about basic care and catering needs, and if it is not properly enforced or monitored, can be easily ignored by hospitals.
According to the Department of Health, the inclusion of these standards in the contracts meant it could be implemented swiftly and without the extended process of new legislation introduction.
Many other organisations, such as Age UK, the Royal College of Nursing and the Patients Association have also voiced their concerns about the quality of food served in hospitals.
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