Purchasing decisions are made at a local level, as National Health Service strategic health authorities and trusts are separate contracting authorities responsible for their own procurement. Under procurement regulations, buyers are unable to specify the purchase of local food as such, as this discriminates against non-local suppliers from the United Kingdom and European Union member states.
On 6 May 2009, the department published guidance entitled, Sustainable Food - a guide for hospitals. Advice to the NHS in this document included:
the use of local, in-season ingredients where possible, to minimise energy used in food production, transport and storage; and
specifying food from farming systems that minimise harm to the environment, such as certified organic produce.
A copy of this document has been placed in the Library and is available on the department's website, via the following link at www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/Publications PolicyAndGuidance/DH_098881.
The department does not routinely collect this information.
However, evidence from NHS Supply Chain (NHS SC), which has approximately 60 per cent of the spend on food by the National Health Service, shows that in the past 12 months, purchasing decisions by NHS trusts have favoured conventional products rather than organic. NHS SC's estimate for the purchase of organic food by the NHS trusts that it supplies is about 4 per cent.
No figures are available for local produce.