All NHS organisations will be required to meet tough new standards on food and drink services offered to patients, visitors, and staff.
As one of the biggest providers of nutritional services in the country – providing more than 199 million meals a year – the NHS has come under scrutiny for the disparity in the quality of food and drink offerings across the country.
And the Independent Review of Hospital Food 2020, chaired by Phil Shelley, highlighted the need for updated food and drink standards to ensure that patients, staff,and visitors have good-quality, healthy, nutritious food options, wherever they are in the country.
Shelley said: “We’ve all had times where we’ve been unwell and not felt like eating, especially as a hospital inpatient, or when we have reached for unhealthy food when we are busy, tired, or stressed at work.
“But a nutritious meal can have a profound impact both on our mental and physical health and on our ability to recover from illness or surgery.
A nutritious meal can have a profound impact both on our mental and physical health and on our ability to recover from illness or surgery
“The NHS is one of the largest providers of food and drink services in the country, but we know that catering in hospitals is not always as good as it could be.”
Since the review was published two years ago, the team has worked with an expert panel of caterers, nurses, doctors, dietitians, and 20 exemplar trusts to develop eight new National Standards of Hospital Food for patients, staff, and visitors.
And this week it was announced by NHS England that all NHS organisations will now be legally required to meet the standards as part of the NHS Standard Contract.
The updated standards include:
- Organisations must have a designated board director responsible for food (nutrition and safety) and must report on compliance with the Healthcare Food and Drink Standards at board level as a standing agenda item
- Organisations must have a Food and Drink Strategy
- Organisations must ensure they have access to appropriate catering dietetic advice and support
- Organisations must have a nominated food safety specialist
- Organisations must invest in a high-calibre workforce, improved staffing, and recognise the complex knowledge and skills required by chefs and food service teams in the provision of safe food and drink services
- Organisations must be able to demonstrate that they have an established training matrix and a learning and development programme for all staff involved in healthcare food and drink services
- Organisations must put steps into place to monitor their food waste, manage any waste produced, and take action to reduce the food waste produce for plate waste, production waste, and unserved food
- Organisations must have suitable food and drink solutions for all staff over a 24/7 service period
The Standards mean that NHS staff and patients will be able to access nutritious food and drink at any time of day and night, every day of the week.
And all NHS organisations will have access to dietetic expertise to better support patient recovery and general health.
The standards also include measures to ensure the quality, safety, and sustainability of food provision and reduction of food waste, to patients, staff, and visitors across acute, mental health and community settings.
The NHS is one of the largest providers of food and drink services in the country, but we know that catering in hospitals is not always as good as it could be
Shelley said: “This is not one size fits all – there is flexibility for organisations to implement the standards in a way that is appropriate and achievable within their local context.
“But the great news is that around 60% of trusts in England are already compliant with the standards, or are in a good position to be.
“We’re seeing some great examples already, including at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, where they have implemented fresh-cook patient and staff menus with excellent 24/7 facilities.
“And Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has built a central production kitchen which prepares 3,000 meals each day for patients across their sites.
“The state-of-the-art kitchen means the trust’s chefs can prepare and store fresh meals in a safe and efficient way, reducing food waste and getting great feedback from patients.