The body that represents foodservice design consultants in the UK has accused the government of “not going far enough” in addressing the core problems facing the hospital catering industry.
The government last week published a report recommending a set of food standards that should become routine practice across NHS Hospitals.
But the UK chapter of the FCSI thinks the report still falls short of what is needed to transform hospital catering in the NHS.
Chairman Niccola Boyd-Stevenson said: “The standard and quality of hospital food has been an area of concern for decades, so we’re pleased that the government has recognised that it is a critical issue. However, the basic standards published by the Department of Health don’t go far enough to address the core problems in the National Health Service’s catering provision.
“The new standards, which hospitals will be required to meet, are very basic – such as providing tap water. They address patient nutrition and hydration but regrettably not the quality of overall catering and there have been no minimum standards set. If we can enforce national nutritional standards for schools, why can’t we do the same for hospitals?”
The FCSI believes that for hospitals to provide a quality food experience, several age-old problems that continue to restrict the industry need to be addressed.
This includes providing trained catering staff who are dedicated to delivering meals and helping patients who need assistance, choice of meals and protected mealtimes.
It also think there needs to be a clear and consistent allocation of budget to catering services so that hospitals with quality issues can improve.
“The government has committed to include the standards in future contracts, but there is no real legal obligation for hospitals or enforcement,” continued Boyd-Stevenson. “The Care Quality Commission has been tasked with rating the standard of food in its annual care report, but it is a stretched resource and will struggle to deliver the transparency we’ve been promised.
“And, issuing fines to those trusts that don’t meet the standards will only take valuable funds away from other areas of care.
The FCSI argues that industry associations such as itself and the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) have the tools and experience required to assist the government in terms of quality and nutrition for food, but Boyd-Stevenson said that traditionally there has been a “reluctance” to use these.
The Hospital Food Standards Panel report released last week looks at standards relating to patient nutrition and hydration, healthier eating across hospitals and sustainable food and catering services.
The panel, set up by Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter and led by Dianne Jeffrey from Age UK, examined existing food standards, advising on how they should be applied and monitored.