Hundreds of thousands of unwanted hospital meals have been binned in Sheffield over the last three years – potentially costing the taxpayer around half a million pounds.
According to figures from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Northern General and Hallamshire hospitals, discarded meals are on the rise, with more than 100,000 dinners thrown away last year compared to 78,500 the year before.
The estimated cost of the wasted food would be £420,000 for 2010/12 – if the data, obtained through The Star’s Your Right To Know campaign, is divided equally between breakfast, lunch and tea. The actual cost could be much higher.
Hospital users in Sheffield said the choice of food should be improved, while patients – particularly the elderly – should be offered meals more appropriate to their conditions.
Janine Elwood, aged 39, from Firshill, said she was disappointed with the hospital food when her partner Jason Steers’ mum Grace Francis, 74, was admitted to the Northern General in March with a suspected gall bladder infection.
“At one point Grace was offered an omelette with mashed potato and swede,” she said. “They put the omelette in front of her but there was no way she was eating it. We had to come home and return with a flask of soup.”
Janine added: “It’s a shame food is wasted. Every bit of food that’s thrown away costs money.”
From 2010/11, 1.8 million meals were served at Sheffield hospitals, of which 4.28 per cent, or 78,547, went to waste. In 2011/12, a total of 1.7m meals were served, with 6.2 per cent, or 107,765, discarded.
Figures for 2012/13 are not yet available.
The trust was unable to break down the cost of each meal, instead providing the average cost of feeding a patient each day.
In 2010/11, the price per day was £6.63, and in 2011/12 it increased slightly to £6.86.
Chris Morley, Deputy Chief Nurse at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals said: “Last year we prepared more than 1.7 million meals and six per cent were not eaten.
“There are a number of reasons why, which include patients being discharged before a mealtime, leaving the ward to have tests, being nil by mouth, becoming too ill to eat, and appetite changes – all of which often occur at very short notice.
“We also want to ensure we offer patients every opportunity to have good nutrition, and this means we offer a significant level of choice and availability of food.
“Our nursing and catering staff have been working hard to develop ways of ensuring patients are encouraged to eat well, which in turn will minimise the amount of meals wasted.”
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