Date Published: 22 February 2013

Sustain calls for hospital food to meet mandatory nutritional standards

How important is the nutritional value of food served to hospital patients ?

A recent report by the pressure group Sustain (www.sustainweb.org) has called for hospital food to meet mandatory nutritional standards. The report, entitled "Twenty years of hospital food failure: Why we need mandatory standards, not more ineffective voluntary initiatives" records failed hospital food initiatives launched by the UK government since 1992. It also records other projects to improve hospital food including those launched by celebrity chefs, charities and health and medical organisations.

Given that many hospital patients do not have access to any other nutrition besides that contained with food supplied by the hospital it would seem to be essential that this is of a high standard. The average person might reasonably expect hospitals to be centres of excellence concerning health and well being, including nutrition appropriate to age, gender and medical circumstances. Irrespective of such reasonable expectations in general, there must also be a strong financial argument in favour of providing the best and most appropriate diet to all in-patients in order to facilitate health, sustained recovery and therefore, hopefully, reduced need for on-going medical support wherever that is possible and at least a higher quality of life where ongoing medical support remains likely.

This report has generated much media interest and comments from the food and health industries. Coverage in national newspapers and online included wider consideration of attitudes to food in hospitals, such as discussion on the BBC's article "Scrubbing Up: Do hospitals legitimise junk food?" at http://bbc.in/14cF0IU.

Other comments from health and medical professionals include the response from Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

He said:

" Getting the right level of nutrition is even more important for people who are recovering from illness. Hospital food has a significant impact on the speed of recovery, susceptibility to infection and mental and physical wellbeing.
_ Feeding patients properly shouldn't be an afterthought, and poor nutrition can hamper the hard work of health care staff to help patients recover. It is unacceptable that so many hospitals are still failing their patients in this vital area and clearly more action is needed."

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
For more information see http://www.rcn.org.uk.

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