News / Better Hospital Food

Half of hospitals failing to meet Government food standards

Department of Health data released today shows that Government rules for food served to NHS patients are being missed by almost 50% of hospitals in England.

The data was released in a report and infographic that shows clearly just how many hospitals nationwide are not meeting these basic hospital food standards.

Katherine Button, Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said:

“The situation in hospital food standards is diabolical. When the hospital food standards were brought in two years ago, we were promised that these hospital food standards were legally binding. With half of hospitals still not meeting even the basic standards, we can now see that this is demonstrably not the case. This means that sick children in hospital wards are not getting the same quality of food that they are legally required to be fed at school when they are well. Enough is enough – we need equal legal protections for hospital food, like the protections that exist for food in schools and prisons.”

Katharine Jenner, from Consensus Action on Salt, Sugar and Health, said:

“This is yet more evidence that voluntary measures don’t work, even when they’re dressed up as ‘legally binding’ in NHS Standard contracts for hospitals. We need mandatory standards, with rigorous monitoring, reporting and meaningful sanctions for non-compliance. Whilst the Department of Health has presented this report as showing progress on compliance, the report should be re-named as a record of non-compliance. The statistics it reveals are shocking.”

Information and data:

  • 48% of hospitals do not meet Government Buying Standards that give hospitals basic standards to meet on food quality, nutrition, environmental sustainability and animal welfare, standards which the Government says should be mandatory 
  • Half of hospitals do not meet dietician guidelines outline by the British Dietetic Association, standards which the Government says should be mandatory 
  • 30% of patients are at real risk of malnutrition in hospitals, yet only half of hospitals screened every patients for signs that they were struggling to get enough to eat.
  • ¼ of English hospitals do not have a food and drink strategy – a requirement of the hospital food standards which the Government says should be mandatory 


Contact Katherine Button: 07966 714 856 or
See the DoH report and infographic



  • The hospital food standards were brought into the NHS standard contract in 2014 – the Department of Health said at the time that this made them legally binding but was never clear what the repercussions would be if hospitals failed to meet the standards
  • The hospital food standards are made up of 5 separate standards

Five required hospital food standards

  1. The 10 key characteristics of good nutrition and hydration care from the NHS England
  2. Nutrition and Hydration Digest (The British Dietetic Association)
  3. Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (British Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition) or equivalent validated nutrition screening tool
  4. (For staff and visitor catering) Healthier and More Sustainable Catering – Nutrition Principles ( Public Health England)
  5. Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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Published 26 Jan 2017

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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