Sheffield hospitals have defended the standard of food served on the city’s wards after claims NHS facilities are ‘hiding’ criticism of meals.
The Campaign for Better Hospital Food accused health trusts of routinely rating their own food highly.
A survey earlier this year by watchdog the Care Quality Commission found just under half of patients at Sheffield’s adult hospitals described their meals as good, but a health service poll judged the food as ‘good’.
Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the campaign group, has called for policies that regulate food in prisons and schools to be extended to cover hospitals.
But Emma Wilson, head of catering at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We take pride in the food we serve to our patients and know good nutrition and hydration greatly contributes to patients’ recovery.
“We provide three meals a day, including meeting specific dietary needs, and offer snacks from the ward kitchens alongside a missed meal service to ensure no patient goes without adequate nutrition.”
Ms Wilson added: “Every effort is made to accommodate patient appetite to ensure that our patients can exercise choice at appropriate times.
“Our many and varied menu structures are developed as a result of feedback from inpatient surveys and collaborative working with patient representative groups, dietitians and ward teams.
“Additionally, we hold regular food quality meetings and meal-tasting sessions in the ward environment with direct patient feedback which helps develop our services and shape improvements as necessary.”
The trust has taken part in a pilot for a new inspection regime, where patient representative groups lead checks on hospitals.
The groups sample food at mealtimes and talk to patients about their experiences. Sheffield’s results are expected in the autumn.
Mr Jackson said: “It is time for the Government to come clean about the sorry state of hospital food in England and set mandatory standards for patient meals.
“This would only involve extending an existing policy which has seen it set mandatory standards for prison food and food served in government departments, to go alongside those that already exist for school food.”
Patient Concern wants protected cash for hospitals to be spent on better meals.