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Hospital food getting better


An independent review of National Health Service catering in England before the pandemic highlighted the need to bring together catering, dietetics and nursing to help improve nutritional outcomes for patients. More than a year on, Elly Earls find out how the report’s recommendations are being implemented


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efore the Covid-19 pandemic, it was clear that hospital catering in England wasn’t meeting the needs of patients, visitors and staff. Stereotypes of bland, reheated slop hadn’t come out of thin air, even if things had


improved significantly, particularly on the patient feeding front, with 58% of those surveyed in 2019 rating the food they received as good or very good. The same survey revealed that 39%


of National Health Service (NHS ) staff felt the food and catering facilities offered in their workplaces were poor, with complaints including lack of access to healthy food choices and options that meet their dietary requirements as well as closed restaurants on weekends and Bank Holidays. It was against this backdrop that Philip


Shelley, formerly of Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, and celebrity chef Prue Leith decided to lead a sprawling


independent review into the challenges of catering within the NHS including recommendations on how they could be better addressed. The report was released in March 2020.


And while the pandemic that followed immediately afterwards could have resulted in hospital food being dropped even further down the list of priorities than in previous years – arguably the NHS had more important concerns – the hope of the report authors is that the opposite will happen. If anything, they stressed, Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of good nutrition to the health outcomes, recovery and rehabilitation of patients, as well as the wellbeing of staff who have had to work in even more stressful and difficult circumstances than usual.


They also argued that with a median


spend of £4.56 per patient meal, including labor costs and overheads, exceeding the budget of meals offered by other English


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