Although the Department of Health’ efforts on hospital food improvement has shown effect in recent years, the group also found, from an online survey of 833 National Health Service (NHS) hospital patients, that 29% reported still feeling hungry after their hospital meals, compared with 4% of private patients.
Which? Researchers also had reviewed hygiene inspection reports, covering three years, from 50 hospitals. Among hygiene problems identified were lack of soap or hot water, poor refrigeration, with out-of-date foods and poor food safety procedures. Along with this, some had mould on cooking equipment, and reports of vermin, such as mice and cockroaches.
In addition, medical supplies had been stored in some hospitals fridges specifically for food.
Of course, not all 50 hospital catering facilities were unhygienic; some were praised for cleanliness.
‘You’d at least expect hospital kitchens to be clean,’ commented Neil Fowler, editor of Which?
‘Our survey also shows a low level of satisfaction with NHS hospital food. The government paints a rosy picture but the reality is very different, with many patients left with a nasty taste in their mouths.’
In 2005, the independent Patient Environment Action Teams found that 90% of hospitals were rated good or excellent for food standards compared with 17% in 2002.
This October, the independent Healthcare Commission reported that over 96% of the country’s healthcare trusts met hospital food standards, and provided some ‘excellent menus’, but added that it recognised more improvements are needed, and work is now under way.