SSentif Press Release

Press Release: October 2011

PROTECTED MEALTIMES FAILING AS NINE MILLION HOSPITAL MEALS GO UNEATEN

 

FEAST OR FAMINE: HUGE DIFFERENCES IN NHS CATERING SPEND

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A staggering nine million hospital meals are being returned to kitchens untouched every year, prompting concern about patient malnutrition and raising questions about the implementation of the Protected Mealtimes Initiative.

Research released by data management and analysis specialist, SSentif, has revealed that across 200 NHS Hospital and Mental Health Trusts almost eight per cent of all hospital meals go uneaten - wasting more than £26 million.

Seven hospital Trusts reported a worrying 20 per cent or more of all meals served to patients remain untouched, with Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust topping the board with 29 per cent waste.

The figures suggest that the Government’s Protected Mealtimes Initiative - which states that wards should be free of visitors and non-emergency medical activity at mealtimes to allow nurses to encourage patients to eat - is not being adhered to.

SSentif's analysis of the data also reveals a huge gulf in NHS catering spend, with differences of up to £16.07 per patient per day between organisations.

Top of the spenders is Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership, with an average outlay of £19 per patient per day, in sharp contrast to organisations such as Rotherham NHS foundation Trust, which spends just £2.93 per patient per day. Overall, 5 Trusts were found to be spending more than £15 per day.

And it seems spending more doesn't encourage patients to eat more. In addition to topping the charts in the waste category, Ipswich Hospital Trust is also one of the organisations with the highest catering spend per patient per day at £17.20 but with the high percentage of meals sent back untouched this is costing them around £1m per year.

Judy Aldred, managing director of SSentif: "Despite spending millions of pounds on catering every year, the NHS has been subjected to criticism about poor quality food and patient malnutrition. Trusts have responsibility for their own catering budgets and with no minimum standard set by Government, the result seems to be huge discrepancies between organisations.

"Food waste in the NHS is also a big concern, as although some waste is inevitable in any catering environment, untouched meals in a healthcare situation have more worrying implications for patient health and nourishment. The fact that Trusts spending a generous amount on hospital meals still report high percentages of meals being returned untouched, would seem to suggest that the issue is less one of food quality is more closely linked to protected patient mealtimes - either they aren't working or hospitals are failing to enforce them."

 

NOTES TO EDITORS:

The data analysed by SSentif was for the period March 09 - March 2010. The data was provided by 200 Trusts. Twenty five organisations did not submit data. Cost of meal waste is calculated by dividing the 'Patient Meal Day' figure by 3 to work out cost of individual meals.

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