Statistics show that the NHS postcode lottery is now affecting hospital food. Whilst some trusts are budgeting more than £20 a day for each patient meal, others are spending less than a tenth of this.
The figures, compiled by the NHS Information Centre, give details of spending money on food and drink by more than 350 primary care trusts, foundation hospitals and other NHS bodies in 2010-11.
Food budget and quality varies widely between NHS hospital trusts
They show that at least 30 NHS hospital trusts spend less than £5 a day on breakfast, lunch and dinner for each patient.
Harrow in north-west London spent £2.75 per patient on food a day, and North Somerset £2.76.
The lowest spender was the Western Sussex Hospital trust, budgeting just £2.57 a day to feed each patient. The trust said that its spending figure was so low because of disparities in the way the NHS data had been collected.
But not all hospitals are scrimping on food- Wiltshire Primary Care Trust budgets £22.31 for each ‘patient meal day’, and several others more than £10 a day.
Simon Burns, a health minister, said last night that some trusts had to improve their performance on food. He said: “Many trusts have excellent food and are serving healthy, fresh meals to their patients whilst staying within budget.”
“These trusts set a precedent for others to follow and the whole NHS should be learning from the best trusts.”
In October 2011 NHS figures showed that £22 million of food was thrown away untouched in the previous year because patients were unable or unwilling to eat it.
A recent survey by cancer charity CLIC Sargent shows that parents spend on average an extra £48 a month on meals when their children are treated in an NHS hospital.
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