1 in 4 hospital meals thrown in bin

New research published today by the Campaign for Better Hospital Food shows that at least 1 in every 4 hospital meals (26%) served to patients in NHS hospitals are likely to be left uneaten and thrown in the bin, a figure higher than previously recognised.

New research published today by the Campaign for Better Hospital Food shows that at least 1 in every 4 hospital meals (26%) served to patients in NHS hospitals are likely to be left uneaten and thrown in the bin [1], a figure higher than previously recognised [2].

This would mean:

  • More than 30 million NHS patient meals (30,558,964) are thrown in the bin each year [1]
  • Each hospital trust throws away an average of 190,994 patient meals each year [1]

For the first time, the figures show how much food on patients’ plates is left uneaten and thrown away on hospital wards. Currently, the government asks hospitals to monitor their own food waste, and that they just calculate how many meals are left uneaten in the kitchen before being wheeled out to patients. They are not asked to inspect the amount of food wasted by patients.

Last year, the government set hospital food standards for the first time, but campaigners say that they are inexcusably weak and fail to deliver radical improvements to hospital food [3].

Alex Jackson, Co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food [4], said: “The government has been steadfast in its refusal to have the quality of hospital food and hospital food waste monitored by an independent organisation. Instead it’s happy to bury the true extent of patient dissatisfaction with what they’re being served. But these shocking figures lift the lid on the appalling state of hospital food in our country.

Patients need nourishing, wholesome meals which are appetising and tasty to eat, not soulless, factory-made food they clearly can’t stomach.

We want the government to fix hospital food for good by setting higher hospital food standards, putting them into legislation and getting meals independently inspected by an organisation trusted by patients and NHS staff.”



For more information and interviews, please contact:

Alex Jackson
0203 5596 777



[1] How we calculated the figures

WRAP and the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) worked together to publish guidance about food waste in healthcare. This included monitoring patient plate waste and the amount of meals left uneaten in the kitchen, called ‘unserved meals’. They found that the amount of food wasted by the patient is 4.2 times as high as ‘unserved meals’ left in hospital kitchens.

For more details, see notes on page 14 of the downloadable document Summary slide deck of the screencasts (PowerPoint presentation) at http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/preventing-waste-healthcare-sector

In addition, each year every Acute NHS Trust publishes a range of data about their catering operations, including the number of meals they serve to patients and the amount of ‘unserved meals’ left in the kitchen. This data is available for download at here.

We were able to use both the WRAP and HCA data and the data published by Acute NHS Trusts last year to calculate the amount of food waste left on patients’ plates at each Acute NHS Trust.

[2] This figure was previously reported to be 1 in 12 meals, see Untouched: the hospital food that goes to waste, Channel 4 website, 11 October 2011, http://www.channel4.com/news/untouched-the-hospital-food-that-goes-to-waste

[3] Hospital food is a recipe for disaster by Prue Leith, Guardian, 2 March 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/02/hospital-food-nutrition-recovery-ministers

[4] Campaign for Better Hospital Food www.hospitalfood.org.uk

Better Hospital Food


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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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