AT least 200,000 hospital meals were thrown away untouched in South Yorkshire last year, new government figures reveal.
Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster NHS trusts reported 197,591 meals wasted in 2010/11, thrown away because patients did not touch their food or they were never served up.
And those numbers could be much higher because Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust - which wasted one in four meals it produced - did not provide figures for its total wastage.
The data, published by the NHS Information Centre, showed South Yorkshire’s hospitals provided at least 4.63 million meals last year, at a cost ranging from £4.95 per day at Sheffield Primary Care Trust (PCT) to £14.31 at Barnsley PCT.
Elsewhere in the UK, hospitals spent as little as £2.57 a day on meals, to the anger of patients’ groups.
The best-performing trust in South Yorkshire - Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals - wasted just 1.54 per cent of the 1.15 million meals it provided.
However, at the other end of the scale Sheffield Health and Social Care, which runs mental health, elderly care and alcohol and drug treatment services at day centres and residential facilities across the city, threw away a staggering 25 per cent of meals.
A spokesman for the trust, which paid £6.46 a day to feed each patient, said: “We recognise there is a need to fully understand the reasons behind why food wastage can occur, even if it may be for a valid reason.
“To help understand and address this issue, the trust’s nutritional strategy group is already undertaking research into the issue of food wastage.”
Sheffield Children’s Hospital threw away 13 per cent of meals - about one in eight.
John Reid, director of nursing and clinical operations, said: “Children are different from adults and our average stay is short, so we try to cater to the family preferences.
“Children can be choosy, so we allow our patients to pick from the children’s menu, have snack boxes or visit the hospital restaurant.
“Waste from our meals is to be expected, as our children can be unwell and not feel like eating. We do our best to take these factors into consideration while, of course, remaining mindful of our budget.”
The most expensive meals in South Yorkshire were served up at Barnsley’s Kendray and Mount Vernon hospitals and the Keresforth centre, run last year by Barnsley PCT.
South West Yorkshire Partnership, which has since taken over management of the centres, said: “All meals are freshly prepared and cooked in our kitchens on a daily basis.”
The national average for wasted food was 5.9 per cent last year, down from 8.9 per cent five years ago.
Hospitals around the country spent an average of £8.58 a day feeding their patients.
Health minister Simon Burns said: “The amount of money hospitals are spending on food has gone up over the past five years, and waste is going down, but this rise in the amount spent on food does not necessarily mean better food for patients.”