Patients view
Time to haul hospital food out of the dark ages

Perhaps someone can explain something to this very confused patient. As you may have read in the media, a new survey has found that the animal welfare standard of hospital food falls far below the levels British shoppers demand and receive when shopping for themselves.

For example, most of the eggs we buy in our supermarkets are ‘cage free’ (i.e. not laid by hens living in cages), and many of the biggest supermarkets have banned cage eggs altogether. In our hospitals, however, more than two out every three eggs served to hospital patients are laid by caged hens. That cannot possibly be right can it? Well it is; I am truly astounded.

Then I thought about it for a few minutes and reached the conclusion that it must be price. Perhaps these standards are incredibly costly and that is why we have to be served food that differs from what you and I would buy on our supermarket shelves. So I checked this out and guess what? Barn eggs are cheaper than cage eggs, and chicken produced under strict RSPCA welfare standards is cheaper per kilo than chicken which meets lower or no animal welfare standards at all.

Ok so if it is not price then there can be no other reason why patients are expected to eat meals which have been produced to lower welfare standards than the food they eat at home. Why is it that patients are treated this way? I remember recently undergoing a rare scan to check how quickly food would empty from my stomach. It required eating a scrambled egg which was mixed with radioactive dye. Well, the process of actually getting a fresh egg in to the hospital was unbelievable, it felt like it had to be sneaked in as my hospital did not serve food using fresh eggs. Instead they were powdered or liquid eggs.

It feels like the basic welfare of patients are being overlooked and on this occasion no one can use the cost card against us. It is absolutely the right of every patient to expect a decent quality of food in hospital. I have read about the quality of food served at The Royal Brompton Hospital, all locally sourced, freshly made and compliant with higher animal welfare standards. Well if it can be done there, and in other pockets around the country, then why can it not be done in all hospitals, regardless of where we live in the country?

December 6th 2012
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Patients want, need and deserve better hospital food

I would regard myself as an NHS veteran having been a patient for over 30 years. Throughout this time the quality of hospital food has been without doubt the single most talked about topic amongst patients.

My own illness has focused on bowel disease and obviously food and nutrition is fundamental to my wellbeing. But in reality this is the same for everyone. The one place you would expect to get a decent standard of food is in the very place where your health and wellbeing are the only reasons for being an inpatient. In 30 years not one of my medical teams have recommended eating the hospital food and, although there are obvious pockets of success stories, the simple fact that 30 million hospital meals are so horrible that they’re left UNEATEN each year suggests that their silence is warranted. This has to change.

Why are there no quality standards of food in our hospitals yet they exist in prisons? How can that be right? Oh and please don’t get me started on costs. In my experience the cost of my meal can be as low as 80p – yes 80p, talk about completely false economy. Let’s think logically here for a minute. If we were given decent food that was tasty and full of the nutritional content patients need then this would aide our recovery and ultimately contributes to patients being able to leave hospital a little earlier. How much would be saved then? Well put it this way, it costs approximately £400 per night just for a bed in some NHS trusts.

In two hospitals I have stayed in the staff and patients did rotas to two fast food restaurants as they couldn’t stand the food being served and who can blame them. When I wanted some decent hot edible food in my last stay I ordered a pizza to be delivered and guess what, it arrived piping hot and tasty. That cannot be right can it? Believe me I have plenty more stories like this that I will be sharing with you over the course of the next few months.

This isn’t just about me, this is about standing up and demanding that patients receive the right quality of food at a time when they need it the most. How can it be right that hospitals can be built without kitchens in them? Immediately that means food is being pre cooked and reheated in microwaves, and that cannot be good for us. I’m lucky, my wife brings in food for me almost on a daily basis but many people do not have that luxury which is why this campaign for higher standards is so important to me. If 67% of hospital staff says that they would not eat the food served to patients then why on earth should patients be expected to eat it? The caterers, the managers and even politicians may feel that there is nothing wrong with the food but wait until they become an inpatient. As I said I know that there are exceptions but that is what they are, exceptions, not the general rule.

My goal as a patient is to ensure that the standard of food served in a hospital anywhere in the country is of a quality that a patient would be proud to cook themselves. It must be nourishing, tasty and contain all the nutritional levels that we as patients need in our daily diet. These standards must become compulsory. It has been achieved in schools and also in prisons so why not hospitals.

The patient is now supposed to be firmly at the centre of our healthcare system. So please join me and tell the decision makers that patients demand quality of food in our hospitals.

November 5th 2012
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Michael Seres has been a regular hospital patient for more than 30 years and is speaking up for better hospital food.

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