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Sustain Better Hospital Food

Word on the ward

Hospital food stories sent to us by patients, and their family and friends.

“I just needed something that tasted like food”
Lynne, patient

“Unfortunately I've been in hospital four times in the last two years in two different hospitals, and my experience of the food served by both was shocking. Both served ‘cook-chill’ food and, when I enquired, I was told by one hospital that it arrives daily from a manufacturer in Wales, all the way to Yorkshire. How barmy is that?! It was enough to keep me from starving but on one occasion my partner brought me in a Wimpy burger, not something I would ever eat ordinarily. I just needed something that tasted like food. What an indictment!”

“Inadequate and substandard food”
Michael, patient

“I started feeling exhausted during the second week and I attribute this to the totally inadequate and substandard food provided by the hospital. I was so tired that I would often fall asleep immediately after dinner, as I had no energy at all.”

“Desperately would like to see him [being served] nutritious food”
Kali, patient’s sister

“My brother has been in hospital for nearly two years now following a serious traumatic brain injury. I desperately would like to see him being given more healthy and nutritious food to eat in hospital. He is now overweight by several stones, which is impeding his ability to engage in physiotherapy. When I visited him last week he was being given jelly with aspartame in and small pots of ice cream, which may as well have been small pots of lard. Then being given biscuits, tea with caffeine and sugar in throughout the day, and a wedge of dried up microwaved lasagne, with no vegetables and potatoes. How the hell his brain is managing to re-wire on this stuff I have no idea.”

I would not feed that to my dog”
Pauline, patient

“The staff nurse who was in the room when I was struggling to eat my meal took one look at it and said: "I would not feed that to my dog!" One man in his wheelchair escaped with his family for fish and chips.”

I could only describe it as slop”
Chris, patient

“During [the period I was in hospital] I lost around three stone in weight. The main reason for this that I distinctly do remember, especially in the final week of my confinement, was that I couldn't stomach the hospital food that was being presented to me! I found it to be totally disgusting and unpalatable. I could only describe it as "slop".”

Ingredients were of very low quality”
Phillippa, patient

“The ingredients (used in my hospital meals) were of very low quality, the vegetables appeared to have been deep frozen for years beyond their use-by date and were soggy and watery, and the grated 'cheese' contained little or no cheese. Whenever possible, I requested cheese and biscuits and received two Jacob’s crackers and a small slice of cheese. This was an enormous luxury and incredibly tasty compared to the other food on offer.”  

“Food was appalling”
Lisa, patient

“I have to say that the majority of times [the food] was appalling and the quality of ingredients below standard. The majority of meals tasted very synthetic. The meals were presented badly and looked unappetising.”

“I would baulk at serving that as pig swill”
Janette, patient’s wife

“My husband came out of hospital having lost over a stone (and he was very slim already) due to the appalling quality of the food. I witnessed on several occasions what was served to him as a meal. I personally would baulk at serving that as swill for pigs, and I am not exaggerating.”

Horrified at the terribly low quality”
Louise, patient

“When in hospital all day, one looks forward to food breaking up the day, and in many ways being as important as the drugs, but we were horrified at the terribly low standard of the food provided. The meals do not seem balanced and often there were no vegetables or salad offered.”

“Short-sighted for food to be disgusting”
Phillippa, patient

 “I think it is very short-sighted for the food to be disgusting, as the cost of keeping patients in for days or weeks longer than necessary in a specialised, highly-staffed unit, often because they are too weak to leave or to fight infection, is surely a much higher financial and social cost.”

“Ashamed for my fellow patients”
Chris, patient

“I refused to eat any food that was brought in by my family because I was ashamed to eat this in front of my fellow patients who only had the hospital "slop" to choose from if their families didn't bring food in for them. This was a source of deep concern to my family and they sought advice from the medical staff.”

Pinnacle of awfulness”
Brenda, patient

“The evening meal on Sunday afternoon was the pinnacle of awfulness. It was a potato and cheese bake which comprised of rock hard potato slices in a white sauce which had the appearance and consistency of PVA glue. It was not pleasant!”

“Gloopy, congealed sauce”
Phillippa, patient

“I chose mainly vegetarian options, but almost every day, the food (normally incredibly soggy pasta) would be covered in a gloopy, congealed sauce which had a repulsive salty taste, which I think was partly due to the 'cheese' it contained.”

“Forced to live on pot noodles”
Mervyn, patient

“A lot of us long term patients rely on food bought in by families or we live on pot noodles and microwave meals. I asked for Leek and Potato soup once (and) I got a scoop of mashed potato in some green water.”

“Dreadful and unappetising”
Jeffrey, patient

“Have just been in (hospital) for five days. The food was dreadful and unappetising. The food is cooked and then reheated and this makes much of it dry breaded fish and sponge puddings. I lost 7 lbs in five days. Most people have the same opinion. Good food helps patients to get better quickly in spirit and medically.”

“Horrified by the slop”
Linda, NHS cook

“I have had lots of experiences as a hospital patient and have been horrified by the slop which is served compared to what we provided in 1964! It just seems incredible when I think of it now and wonder why if we could offer this sort of service and good wholesome food 50 years ago why we can't do it now?”

“Hospitals should go back to having chefs”
Karen, patient

“Hospitals should go back to having cooks and chefs in (their own kitchens) and providing everything fresh each day. I am sure the elderly would benefit from that, because most (patients) leave in a poorer state than they went in."

“Completely inappropriate”
Anonymous, patient’s partner

“The healthy option for pudding offered on the first day was apple crumble and custard, (which is) completely inappropriate (for some patients with particular) diagnoses, and is not a healthy option (for anyone). I ended up, like many other visitors, bringing in meals instead.”

Better Hospital Food: The campaign represents a coalition of organisations calling on the Westminster government to introduce mandatory nutritional, environmental and ethical standards for food served to patients in NHS hospitals in England.

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