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CBHF league table rates hospital food retailers

Shops, restaurants and catering companies selling food in NHS hospitals have been rated for their commitment to healthy eating in a league table compiled by the Campaign for Better Hospital Food. The Healthy Hospital Food League Table ranks high street brands in order of how well they meet NHS England targets on healthy checkouts, food advertising and price promotions in hospitals.

The presence of high street brands, including Costa, M&S and Starbucks in England’s hospitals is common and increasingly controversial. Nevertheless, such outlets are serving food to patients, visitors and 1.3 million NHS staff every day. The Campaign for Better Hospital Food’s league table compares these operators, as well as commercial caterers for their commitment to promoting healthier eating on hospital sites. It rates them against the targets set in place in the recent NHS England Health and Wellbeing CQUIN, which also establishes a deadline of March 2017 for certain targets to be met.

First place goes to the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS). RVS comes top of the league table for meeting all of the NHS England healthy eating targets in advance of the deadline, and gets special recognition for going one step further and rolling out the higher Scottish NHS healthcare retail standard across all 220 RVS shops in English Hospitals by March 2018.

Subway and Burger King languish at the bottom of the league table. Katherine Button from the Campaign for Better Hospital Food says: “It's disappointing that Subway and Burger King alone, out of all the major brands serving food in hospitals, are the only two we found not to be working towards NHS England targets on promotion of healthier food. The healthier option should be the easier option in hospitals, and at the moment Subway and Burger King appear to be holding back moves towards a healthier NHS. And through their formal partnerships with hospital caterers, they also appear to be holding back those caterers from doing better in the Healthy Hospital Food League Table.”

At the other end of the league table, encouraging success comes in the form of the high street bakery Greggs, which commits to meeting all the targets early for its single New Cross Hospital shop in Wolverhampton. It is a mixed result for M&S, which has 21 hospital stores and scores highly in healthy checkouts but has not committed to the target for healthy price promotions. Meanwhile the newsagent giant WH Smith, present in 85 English hospitals, did better than expected, committing to meet the NHS England healthy eating targets by March 2017.

In the battle of the sandwich and coffee shops, AMT Coffee just pips Pret a Manger to the top spot for its outlets in Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Pret a Manger scores highly for its John Radcliffe Hospital outlet in Oxford, but, despite promoting a healthier food philosophy across most of the shop floor, Pret a Manger was let down by its policy of displaying high-fat baked goods at the till points, which means it won’t be able to meet the healthy checkout target. Costa and Starbucks bring up the rear but told the Campaign for Better Hospital Food they will still aim to meet the March 2017 deadline.

The Healthy Hospital Food League Table also lists commercial caterers that serve food in the NHS. Sometimes, these also work in partnership with high street brands to provide a diverse food offer to patients, hospital visitors and NHS staff. Disappointingly, two very large hospital catering companies, Sodexo and Medirest (part of the Compass Group), were unable to commit to the NHS England health and wellbeing targets fully across their operations. These catering companies have big NHS contracts to supply patient and staff catering in hospitals, and also bring in high street brands for quick service restaurants and coffee shops. The league table score for each was reduced because partner brands like Subway and Burger King have not committed to the NHS England CQUIN targets.

Meanwhile, ISS, another large catering company that provides food services to the NHS, has won special recognition by committing to have all outlets across its business meet NHS England CQUIN targets, whilst also making sure all the brands it brings in to hospitals, including Starbucks and Costa, meet the targets by the March 2017 deadline.

Healthy Hospital Food League Table points system

To encourage uptake with the standards the Campaign for Better Hospital Food has awarded shops, cafés and restaurants - operating in hospital sites – with ascending points for how well they meet each Healthy Hospital Food target:

  • Failing to meet the NHS England deadline, or failing to respond = zero points
  • Meeting the NHS England deadline of March 2017 = 10 points
  • Reaching the targets before January 2017, ahead of the NHS England deadline = 25 points
    Bonus points are awarded for additional pledges, including:
  • 10 points for commitments to go above and beyond the targets set by NHS England (For example, RVS has committed to meeting the Scottish Healthcare Retail Standard for food promotions by January 2015 [a higher standard than the NHS England targets] and to roll out the full Healthcare Retail Standard across England and Wales in 2017-2018.)
  • 10 points for commitments by catering companies
    (For example, ISS will go one step further than this and compel their franchise partner brands to meet the targets by March 2017)