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The Campaign for Better Hospital Food

We need your help to make hospital food fit for purpose:

Today, Jeremy Hunt announced changes to hospital food which, while full of attractive sound bites, fail to deliver radical improvements to patient meals in England. His promise to introduce “legally-binding” standards for hospital food appear to fulfil what we have always strived for, yet we’re left feeling that he has pulled the wool over our eyes.

We have always wanted hospital food standards to be set down in legislation, similarly to school food standards, and therefore universally applied to all hospitals and protected by publicly elected representatives for generations to come. But the government has only committed to including them in NHS commissioning contracts, which are long documents full of clauses that without proper enforcement and monitoring can be ignored by hospitals.

The standards are weak and only reflect basic catering and care standards which are already commonly implemented in the NHS, including that “tap water is available” to patients. Good things in themselves, but not ambitious enough to have a transformative effect on patient meals.

The government is not prepared to put the food standards out for public consultation which means that only the Panel members, including food manufacturers with a commercial interest in hospital food, have had any influence over them. The lack of public involvement in, and scrutiny of, the Panel’s recommendations compounds the alarm caused by a Daily Mail article which quoted a government official allegedly undermining the value of nutritious hospital meals, and advising that patients be served doughnuts if going hungry (See ‘Why junk food can be good for older patients’).

We’re calling on the government to put the Panel’s recommendations out for public consultation, and commit to introducing legislation to set only the highest and most ambitious standards for patient meals.

Please help us to make hospital food fit for purpose by:
• Taking action at www.sustainweb.org/hospitalfood/action
• Tweeting: Think @Jeremy_Hunt hospital food announcement fails to deliver? Take action today @betterNHSfood http://bit.ly/VSup5L
• Sharing this link www.sustainweb.org/hospitalfood/action on your Facebook page

Other campaign news and some recent wins!
Together we helped to bring about some welcome improvements to the government’s food plans, including:
• Win #1 – The government now recognises that its separate reviews of school food, hospital food and food served in Whitehall and prisons should not be carried out in isolation, and that its departments and Ministers should be working together to improve the healthiness and sustainability of the food they are each responsible for.
• Win #2 – New school food standards now cover not only healthy eating, they also make reference to the importance of serving sustainably produced food in school meals, including sustainable fish, Fairtrade products and fresh, local and seasonal food.

Help us to further improve the government’s plans
Food standards for schools, Whitehall, prisons and the armed forces have now been published by government, but hospital food standards are still under discussion and expected to be published by the Hospital Food Panel soon.

Our major concerns remain that:
• When hospital food standards are published by the government’s Hospital Food Panel, they will include a range of different options of varying effectiveness from which hospitals can pick-and-choose (tempting some to opt for the weakest and most easily achieved), and – as the standards will not be set down in legislation, nor widely publicised, monitored and enforced – many hospitals may remain unaware of them altogether.

We therefore want to see the government clearly define the best possible standards and set them down in legislation, so that they can’t be ignored by hospitals, or changed or removed without the consultation or consent of elected members of Parliament, and will be protected for generations to come.

• Revised school food standards were published in June and will continue to give parents some confidence that their child’s school meals – and indeed food provided throughout the school day – will be nutritious and free from the unhealthy snacks so heavily sold and promoted beyond the school gates.

However, over 3,000 existing academies that were created between June 2010 and May 2014 (and comprising about half of all secondary schools) do not need to meet the standards, meaning that many children may not be served nutritious food.

• Sadly, the government has succumbed to pressure and weakened the ‘Great Food Plan’, launched to update Government Buying Standards which apply to food served in Whitehall, prisons and the armed forces, and are promoted to schools and hospitals as useful guidance.

The Plan has watered down its commitments to improving animal welfare and the sustainability of fish. It now only requires that some food is produced to basic legal UK production standards and does not reference higher standards of welfare, like free range chicken. It also no longer requires that tuna is caught by ethical ‘pole-and-line’ fishing methods.

It is concerning that the government will not monitor where, or if, the Plan is actually being adopted, and has failed to ‘weight’ nutritional, environmental and ethical food criteria against ‘cost’, meaning that caterers will still be encouraged to go for the cheapest food, rather than the best food.
Only with your help we can continue to make improvements to the government’s plans for food served in our most cherished public institutions, so please start today by taking a stand for better hospital food at www.sustainweb.org/hospitalfood/action.

Best wishes,
Alex Jackson

Campaign for Better Hospital Food
alex@sustainweb.org / facebook.com/hospitalfood / @betterNHSfood


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