HOSPITAL staff in South Tyneside have been praised for finding a recipe for success – as health bosses launch a nationwide drive to boost food standards for patients.
The NHS is to have mandatory food standards, and hospitals will be ranked on food quality by the Government.
South Tyneside District Hospital says it is already serving up satisfying meals, after achieving a 99 per cent approval rating in a patient-led inspection.
The hospital was one of six singled out for delivering top performance in food quality for patients in the North East.
Steve Williamson, chief operating officer at South Tyneside District Hospital, said: “We always take great pride in the meals we serve to our patients and staff.
“Wherever possible, we source our food locally, and it is always cooked in our kitchens on site daily.
“We always receive high praise from patients regarding the quality of our meals, and we attract a significant number of visitors each day to sample the food in our restaurant.
“The hospital also recently won an award for the best hospital food in the area.”
The new requirements have been agreed upon following the formation of the Hospital Food Standards Panel, led by Dianne Jeffrey, chairman of Age UK.
The requirements will form part of the NHS Standards Contract – making them legally-binding for hospitals – and includes screening patients for malnourishment and patients having a food plan.
Hospitals must take steps to ensure patients get the help they need to eat and drink and canteens must promote healthy diets for staff and visitors – including complying with recommendations on salt, saturated fats and sugar;
Hospitals will be ranked on the NHS Choices website, which will show how they perform on quality of food, choice of food, menus approved by dietitian, availability of fresh fruit, cost of food per patient and variety of breakfast choices.
Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, said: “We are making the NHS more transparent, giving patients the power to compare food on wards and incentivising hospitals to raise their game.
“Many hospitals are already offering excellent food to their patients and staff.
“But we want to know that all patients have nourishing and appetising food to help them get well faster and stay healthy, which is why we’re introducing tough new mandatory standards for the first time ever.”
However, the Unison union says the plans don’t go far enough – and are calling for a minimum food standard to be introduced.
Christina McAnea, Unison head of health, said: “The Government’s initiative doesn’t go far enough. There are minimum standards for food in schools and prisons, so why not in the NHS? Healthy, appetising food is vital to a speedy recovery and long-lasting health.
“Hospitals should move away from cook/chill food production, and towards cooking food on site, using locally- sourced food.
“Outsourcing of catering services has had a detrimental impact on the quality of food served in hospitals, which is why so many people rely on vending machines and fast food outlets in hospital foyers.
“Hospital catering staff are working hard to produce quality food against the backdrop of budget cuts and privatisation.
“They also need enough time to ensure that patients are not only getting the right food, but have the help and time they need to be able to eat it.”