NHS food supplement spend revealed
Hospitals spend more money on nutritional supplements than food, campaigners have said.
The NHS in England spent £320 million on supplements for hospital patients in 2012, compared to £270 million on food ingredients, the Campaign for Better Hospital Food found.
The figures were released before a new Hospital Food Bill is introduced to the House of Lords, calling for mandatory quality standards for all patient meals.
Lady Cumberlege, who is introducing the Bill, said: "It is especially clear to patients and their families that something needs to be done to improve hospital food.
"One simple way to do this is to require all patient meals to meet minimum standards of quality, like those that exist for school food and prison food.
"The Government is busy working on legislation in a number of areas, so I wanted to introduce this Bill to help them to address an urgent issue of concern."
Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, added: "Nutritional supplements are routinely prescribed to hungry patients who are not eating hospital food because of its poor quality.
"It is far better for patients to be nourished by enjoyable food than by pills administered as medicine, and it would save the NHS money too.
"Lady Cumberlege has done a fantastic job to introduce vital legislation to improve hospital food.
"It would be beyond belief for the government not to support it."
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "Nutritional supplements cost a lot more than food but are essential to many patients in order to survive, including patients who need to eat through feeding tubes.
"The majority of this spend is for people in the community, so it is completely wrong to say it is about hospital food quality.
"We agree, however, that there is still too much variation in food standards across the NHS and we are working with Age UK and others on our continued work to support better hospital food."