Celebrity chefs call for higher hospital food standards
With attention now turning to patient meals in the horse meat scandal, a coalition of eighty nine organisations including several media personalities have added their support to 'Twenty years of hospital food failure', a report published today.
It said government had introduced twenty one failed voluntary initiatives to improve hospital food, costing more than £54 million of taxpayers' money - enough to pay for thirty four new hospital kitchens.
Loyd Grossman and five different celebrity chefs have been appointed to lead these voluntary initiatives: Albert Roux, John Benson-Smith, Mark Hix, Anton Edelmann and Heston Blumenthal.
"Government has ignored at least fourteen warnings from government advisers, MPs, commercial caterers, and health, environmental and animal welfare organisations that voluntary initiatives to improve hospital food were failing" the report said.
The report concludes that these initiatives failed because they relied on hospitals to voluntarily adopt their recommendations, rather than being made compulsory like nutritional standards introduced for school food.
Earlier this week, the Academy of Royal Colleges, which represents Britain's 220,000 doctors, announced its public support for mandatory standards for hospital food in all UK hospitals.
The Academy described Jeremy Hunt's proposals to improve hospital food as 'vague and voluntary.'
"Serving fresh and nutritious hospital food is vital to improving patient health, and to raising morale amongst NHS staff, patients and their families" said Grossman, who led the Government's Better Hospital Food initiative between 2001 and 2006
"My team and I worked hard for five years to improve patient meals but progress was much slower than we would have liked. Although we had a number of successes, we did not achieve the transformation which we had hoped for and which patients deserve. While I could see what needed to be done and what could be done, our efforts were hampered by a lack of political will."
"There has not yet been a noticeable change in the way hospital food is produced, prepared, cooked and served. I welcome the publication of this report and hope that it prompts government to take a new and effective approach to improving hospital food, including by requiring it to meet mandatory standards."
Albert Roux, who was asked in 1995 by the Department of Health to give his opinion about how to improve hospital food, said: "We must not think that high quality hospital food is too difficult or expensive to achieve. After all, simple food is often the best food and buying fresh seasonal produce is cheap to buy."
"If we have learned anything from the last twenty years it is that meetings, speeches and gimmicks do not work what we need now is change to the whole hospital food system, starting with the introduction of food standards for every patient meal."
John Benson-Smith, who was appointed to work with Loyd Grossman to support the Better Hospital Food Initiative, said: "The complete experience I found fascinating, joyful, inspiring, frustrating, bewildering and one which I will never forget."
"The huge task to improve the food that was placed on the patient's plate was indeed of an epic scale and proportion. Hospital food does not need 'tickling' or a handful of greatly composed PR words again. It is in need of a huge re-think."
Alex Jackson, Co-ordinator of the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: "This report must serve as a lesson to Jeremy Hunt that simply publishing recommendations for the improvement of hospital food isn't good enough, as every one of his predecessors in the last twenty years has found out. It's time for the government to take effective action by introducing mandatory standards for patient meals."
Hospital patient Michael Seres, said: "I've been in and out of hospital for thirty years with Crohn's Disease which required major surgery last year. From my perspective, hospital food hasn't got any better in this time, and remains the number one complaint amongst patients. It's shocking to admit, but I'm not surprised that the horsemeat scandal has spread to hospitals."
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