Some hospital meals 'cost only 86p'
NHS hospitals are spending as little as £2.57 to feed and water patients a day - or 86 pence a meal, according to new figures.
A massive disparity in what is spent on patients around the country was revealed by the statistics compiled by the NHS Information Centre.
Among those spending the least were Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust (£2.57), Harrow Primary Care Trust (PCT £2.75), North Somerset PCT (£2.76), North West London Hospital NHS Trust (£3.13) and Herefordshire PCT (£3.66).
The figures showed more than 30 hospital trusts - almost one in 10 of the total - fork out less than £5 a day on breakfast, lunch and dinner for each patient in their care. Wiltshire PCT led the way in spending the most (£22.31) followed by Kirklees PCT (£19.81), University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (£17.46) and Cumbria Teaching PCT (£17.85).
The figures were disclosed just a day after a report by the independent Future Forum warned NHS nurses were lacking in compassion and basic skills.
Government buying standards include criteria to reduce salt, fat and sugar content and increase the amount of fruit, vegetables, fibre and oily fish on offer, the Department of Health (DoH) said.
It pointed out that the amount of money hospitals spend on food had gone up over the past five years, with the average at £6.53 per patient per day in 2005-06, compared to £8.58 in 2010-11. Waste was also going down, from an average of 8.9% in 2005-06 to 5.9% in 2010-11, the DoH added.
Health Minister Simon Burns said: "All patients deserve basic standards of care when they are in hospital and good food is one of them. We have set binding standards for good hydration and nutrition as part of a hospital's registration with the regulator."
Paul Hatcher, director of estates and facilities at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "Unlike other trusts, the figure represents only the cost of ingredients, and not the total spent on sourcing, preparing, cooking and serving food and drink. If those costs are included, our figure is £8.46 per patient, per day.
"The last reports from the Patient Experience Action Teams rated patient food at all three of our hospitals as 'excellent', and in the last national inpatient survey our trust was rated by patients as being fractionally outside the top 20% in the country for the standard of food."