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Plea over hospital food standards

Campaigners have renewed calls for ministers to introduce minimum standards for the quality of food served to patients after it emerged that a third of hospitals which claim they are fulfilling voluntary requirements are not actually meeting the criteria.

Not setting minimum standards of food is an "affront" to patients and their families, t he Campaign for Better Hospital Food said.

The call comes after the organisation found that one in three hospitals which claim they are meeting Government Buying Standards, which are mandatory for food served in government departments and prisons but are voluntary for hospitals, are not meeting one of the criteria.

Of 30 hospital trusts in England which said they were compliant with the standards, 12 did not meet the benchmark criteria for the amount of fairtrade tea and coffee served to patients.

The standards state that half of tea and coffee served should meet fairtrade standard s.

Of the 30 trusts, including five mental health trusts, which said they compliant with Government Buying Standards, 12 did not meet the criteria, 13 did and five did not provide any information, the c ampaign found.

A spokesman said that ministers have rejected calls to make the standards mandatory for patient meals, claiming that half of hospitals are already voluntarily adopting them.

"We've had enough of the Government using poor excuses and fiddled figures to justify why it won't introduce mandatory quality standards for patient meals," said Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food.

"Their refusal to do this is appalling and inexplicable, and is an affront to thousands of hospital patients and to their families.

"Ministers must be living on another planet if they think it's acceptable to set standards to improve meals served to prisoners but not to sick patients".

Health Minister Dan Poulter said: "There are many fantastic examples of really good food across the NHS thanks to forward thinking and innovative staff. But, we recognise that there is too much variation across the country - that is why we have brought in a new inspection programme - led by patients - to help raise standards.

"We have also asked Dianne Jeffrey, chair of Age UK, to head up our food standards panel to look at how to improve standards of hospital food right across the NHS."

Dr Poulter added: "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. Patients are the ones who consume hospital food and they are best placed to decide what is good and what is not."

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