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Hospitals: Food

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 8 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps the Government plan to take to improve the quality of food provided for patients in hospitals. (175593)

[holding answer 7 January 2008]: An appropriate diet, based on acceptable standards, requires good food with the right nutritional content, properly prepared and available when patients need it. The details of how that diet is provided are for local determination. Work to support trusts in delivering good food and nutritional care is provided via a wide range of mechanisms.

The national health service plan stipulated that dieticians should advise and check on nutritional values in hospital food. Nutritional information is available for all recipes in the national dish selector, and this can be used to assess local nutritional levels. Ingredients specifications for the recipes have been developed by the Purchasing and Supply Agency to ensure that wholesome, high quality and value-for-money ingredients are used.

The Food Standards Agency has published (voluntary) nutrient and food based guidance for major institutions. This guidance aims to assist caterers and consumers to achieve the Government's healthy eating recommendations. This advice feeds into the cross Government agenda on diet and food procurement. The Agency has also published example menus to assist caterers in meeting this guidance.

The quality of hospital food is measured annually via Patient Environment Action Team assessments. These showed an increase from 17 per cent. “good” in 2002 to over 46 per cent. “excellent” in 2007. (There was no “excellent” category in 2002, when a three-point scale was used).

To identify and deal with patients at risk, we have introduced protected mealtimes and have renewed the emphasis on nutritional screening. These two areas of work are being actively pursued by the National Patient Safety Agency.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State (Mr. Lewis) hosted two nutrition summits as part of his dignity in care work. A wide range of stakeholders attended. Following these summits, we launched the Nutrition Action Plan “Improving Nutritional Care” on 30 October 2007. There will be ongoing monitoring of how stakeholders and their work have contributed to the aims of the plan through a nutrition action plan delivery board. The delivery board will be accountable to my hon. Friend and will produce a progress report in summer 2008.