Top NHS hospitals spending as little as £2.61 a day per patient on food

New figures reveal a postcode lottery on food, with five acute hospitals spending less than £4 per patient per day on grub and a further nine less than £5

NHS hospitals are spending as little as £2.61 a day on food per patient.

‘We have allowed a situation where some hospitals, according to the official data, are spending less than £3 a day on patient meal’

The figure is only a little more than is spent on meals for prison inmates.

Data reveals 13 trusts spending less than £5 a day on food, with just £2.61 a day spent by one NHS hospital – little more than the daily spend in prisons.

Labour on Wednesday pledged to introduce new legal minimum standard for hospital food, to ensure patients were better nourished.

Records show the number of patients admitted to hospital suffering from malnutrition has more than doubled since 2009/10, with 8,458 cases where it was the primary or secondary diagnosis in 2016/17.

Cookery expert Prue Leith, an ambassador for the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, welcomed Labour’s pledge.

The Bake-Off judge said: “Finally a major political party is waking up to the issue of hospital food. For the sake of patients’ recovery and for their enjoyment, let’s hope the government follows suit and commits to better food in our hospitals.”

The NHS data shows widespread variation in spending on food, with some trusts stating their daily costs as £40 per patient per day. However, such figures were likely to include food transport and other catering costs, such as staff pay.

Labour’s new analysis of official hospital food data shows £560 million spent on 144 million inpatient main meals in 2016/17 – an average of £3.68 per meal.

Gloucester Royal Hospital spent just £2.61 per patient each day, while Cheltenham General Hospital spent £3.63 and Alder Hey Hospital spent £3.80 per head.

Prisons spend around £2 a day on food for inmates.

NHS records show record numbers of patients dying from malnutrition.

According to the Office of National Statistics, malnutrition was the underlying cause or a contributory factor in 351 deaths in NHS hospitals in England and Wales in 2016.

Malnutrition was the underlying cause of 66 deaths, up from 59 the previous year and the highest number in the last decade.

Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary, will today tell a conference of the Hospital Caterers’ Association: “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 said the new standards would have the same legal basis as those on school food, and would be independently monitored and enforced.

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