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Trusts give food a higher rating than patients

Campaigners are concerned that NHS Trusts in England are hiding patient dissatisfaction with hospital food.

The Campaign for Better Hospital Food said Trusts routinely rated their own food highly; patient surveys, however, showed nearly half of people were dissatisfied with what they were offered to eat.

The campaigners want mandatory standards introduced for hospital food, like those which already exist for prisons and schools. In the past, NHS staff in England have carried out annual assessments of the quality of hospital food - in 2011 they rated nearly 98% of meals as "good" or "excellent".

Although the inspection system is now changing, the Campaign for Better Hospital Food points to a survey of more than 64,000 patients carried out by regulator CQC earlier this year in which just 55% of patients said the food they had been served was "good".

Alex Jackson, Co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said existing policies that regulate food served in prisons and schools should be extended to hospitals.

"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," he said. "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."

Data from the CQC shows that 12 of the 20 hospitals serving the worst food use meals prepared by private catering companies, whereas 14 of the 20 hospitals with the best food employ catering staff who prepare and cook the food from scratch.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Health in England said there were many examples of good food across the NHS. "But we recognise that there is too much variation across the country - that is why we have implemented a tough new inspection programme.

"We support the principle of food standards but do not think that legislation is the right way to proceed. We believe that the best decisions on hospital food are those taken locally by chefs and catering managers."