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NHS: Food

Volume 698: debated on Thursday 7 February 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What mechanisms are in place for patients to comment on the food they receive in NHS hospitals; and [HL1730]

Whether the NHS offers advice to patients regarding what food to bring with them for a prolonged stay in an NHS hospital; and [HL1731]

Whether NHS hospitals are required to state clearly whether the food they provide for patients' consumption contain nuts or other ingredients that may cause allergic reactions; and [HL1733]

How they plan to increase the number of nutritional screening policies in place in NHS hospitals; and whether they plan to make screening of patients for undernutrition a mandatory requirement on the NHS. [HL1734]

Patients are able to comment on the food they receive in hospitals in several ways. The Healthcare Commission National Inpatient survey (due to be published this year) asks a sample of patients, how they would rate hospital food and if they were offered a choice of food. The Healthcare Commission's Maternity Survey 2007 also asked women for information about the quality and quantity of food they received during their time in hospital. Additionally, patients are able to comment directly to the nursing staff on the ward. This will facilitate an immediate resolution to any problems at source. Trusts may also conduct their own patient satisfaction questionnaires to assess patient satisfaction with hospital meals.

All hospital inpatients are entitled to have their meals provided free of charge in National Health Service hospitals. Some patients may wish to bring their own food into hospital and individual trusts will advise patients on whether this is appropriate. They will also advise on the safe management of food they bring in.

Patients who have identified food allergies should be provided with an appropriate meal that meets their dietary needs. The patient's name and diet type is normally clearly identified on the meal.

The Food Standards Agency has issued best practice advice to help food retailers and caterers selling foods that is not pre-packed to give information on the allergen content of the foods they provide. These principles are applicable to healthcare caterers. The guidance is voluntary.

Local National Health Service trusts are responsible for nutrition screening policies. To help trusts devise their policies we have produced Essence of Care which sets benchmarks for screening and assessment to identify patients' nutritional needs in health and social care settings, and helps healthcare professionals form appropriate care plans.

We have also produced the Improving Nutritional Care, which outlines a range of actions to tackle malnutrition and ensure the nutritional needs of older people in hospitals and care homes are better met. It aims to ensure that health and social care staff and managers are well informed, equipped and supported to provide good nutrition and effective nutritional care.

The National Patient Safety Agency is also supporting the wide use of screening across the NHS.