Making hospital food better

We think that the service of appetising, healthy and fresh food should be normal practice in hospitals. Food is medicine - it’s widely recognised as an integral part of good patient care.

More and more hospitals are working to improve their hospital food, and the Soil Association is working to champion and spread these good practices. Our Hospital Food Leaders Network is demonstrating that good hospital food is possible and our ‘First Aid for Hospital Food’ report proved that improvements can be made, without increased costs.

Yet we know that in some hospitals the food being served to patients is not good enough. Our 2010 survey of hospital patients and their family members revealed that the food they received was considered 'unacceptable' and over half wouldn't feed it to a child, while nearly a quarter opted out of the hospital catering entirely – choosing instead to have every meal brought into them by their relatives.

We are supporting the Department of Health’s work to improve hospital food, and welcome their new principles for hospital food. But more can, and needs to be done to improve hospital food across the board. We understand that changing food is not just about the ingredients on the plate - the whole hospital, from catering staff to chief executives should understand, and be involved with, ensuring the service of good food that promotes health, and gets people better.

Proving it’s possible

A growing number of hospitals are working to achieve the Food for Life Catering Mark award for food served to their patients and visitors. The award requires that all meat is traceable back to the farm, and meets UK legal minimum welfare standards. In addition, 75% of food served must be freshly prepared, reducing reliance on processed food. The scheme provides a clear framework of standards to improve food on the plate, rewarding caterers for making healthy eating easier and including local, seasonal, organic and high animal welfare products. Over 10,000 meals are being served in hospitals every day meeting Food for Life Catering Mark bronze standards.

NHS England has cited the Soil Association's Food for Life Catering Mark as a best practice standard for achieving new Hospital Food CQUIN

Adopting the hospital food CQUIN goal is an opportunity for commissioners and hospitals who want to make lasting improvements to the food they offer people in their care. The NHS Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) guidance for 2014/15 includes a recommended goal to improve the standard of hospital food. The guidance cites the Soil Association's Food for Life Catering Mark as a best practice standard for achieving new Hospital Food CQUIN.

Our reports on hospital food