As many as 50,000 people a year could be dying with malnutrition in NHS hospitals in England and the majority of patients admitted to hospital lose weight during their stay.
Lady Cumberlege will today introduce a Hospital Food Bill to the House of Lords for debate. The Bill would set mandatory quality standards for all patient meals, including standards to ensure that they are nutritious and made to minimum standards of production. 97 national organisations, including the Royal College of Physicians, Patients Association, British Dietetic Association and the British Heart Foundation, are calling on David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt to give government support to the legislation.
While hospital food in England does not have to meet mandatory standards, the majority of food served in public sector institutions in the UK does. This includes school food, food served in prisons and government departments, as well as patient meals in Wales and Scotland . The Bill seeks to rectify this anomaly and extend quality standards to patient meals in England.
Lady Cumberlege said: “It is especially clear to patients and their families that something needs to be done to improve hospital food. One simple way to do this is to require all patient meals to meet minimum standards of quality, like those that exist for school food and prison food. The government is busy working on legislation in a number of areas, so I wanted to introduce this Bill to help them to address an urgent issue of concern.”
Alex Jackson, Co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: “Nutritional supplements are routinely prescribed to hungry patients who are not eating hospital food because of its poor quality.It is far better for patients to be nourished by enjoyable food than by pills administered as medicine, and it would save the NHS money too. Lady Cumberlege has done a fantastic job to introduce vital legislation to improve hospital food. It would be beyond belief for the government not to support it.”