Horrendous hospital food is set to become a thing of the past after NHS chiefs vowed to rid the nation’s hospitals of their reputation for inedible slop.

For the first time hospitals will have to meet mandatory food standards as part of a long-mooted drive to raise standards, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

They will also be ranked according to the quality of their food and will be required to meet legally-binding standards.

The NHS Choices website has released ratings for hospitals’ food which revealed Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) as “among the worst” for its quality of food.

The rating is at odds with a recent survey of patients by Healthwatch Kirklees, which found most enjoyed the hospital’s grub.

The NHS website ranked Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH) and Dewsbury and District Hospital chefs slightly higher, giving them both a rating of “in the middle range”.

HRI spends about £8.50 per patient per day on food, while CRH, which ranked higher, spends less, just £6.57 per day.

Dewsbury spend the most at more than £10 per day.

Head of Catering for Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust, Andrew Donegan, said changes had been made to improve the quality of food and the Healthwatch study showed these were already being appreciated by patients.

He said: “We have made changes to the menus and to the sandwich choice available at HRI and these were well-received.

“Yet we are always looking to improve further to deliver tasty, nutritional meals which we hope all our patients enjoy.”

Last month Healthwatch Kirklees published its probe into hospital grub, after interviewing patients at HRI and CRH last May.

Healthwatch Kirklees Director, Rory Deighton, said: “If we are honest I am not sure that we were expecting such positive comments from patients.

Health Watch Kirklees Director Rory Deighton
Health Watch Kirklees Director Rory Deighton
 

“Hospital food has a poor reputation, and it was interesting to see that actually, patients were happy with the food that they were served.”

The DoH said patients would now be screened for malnutrition and given personal food plans, while hospital staff will have to ensure patients get the help they need so that they can physically eat and drink.

All three Kirklees and Calderdale hospitals are already using dieticians to approve their menus.

Healthy diets will be promoted to staff and visitors in hospital canteens, and what they serve will have to meet Government recommendations on salt, sugar and saturated fats.

Food suppliers will also benefit, with food having to be sourced in a sustainable way so that it is healthy, good for individuals and the wider food industry.

The standards were recommended in a report by the Hospital Food Standards Panel, which developed them after working with organisations including royal colleges and nutritional experts.

As well as the compulsory standards there are recommendations that hospitals develop food and drink policies that encourage healthy eating, high-quality food production, sustainability and excellent nutritional care.

Patients will be able to check the ongoing standard of food at their local hospital on the NHS Choices website.

Hospitals that fail to follow the guidance will be in breach of their commissioning contract – and action could be taken against them.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are making the NHS more transparent, giving patients the power to compare food on wards and incentivising hospitals to raise their game.”