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UK Hospital Kitchen Nightmares

Armen Hareyan's picture

Poor hospital hygiene and dirty kitchens have been found at some UK hospitals and many NHS patients are going hungry.

Dirty kitchens have been found at some UK hospitals and many NHS patients are going hungry, according to Which?

Despite government claims that 91.6 per cent of all hospitals are now rated either excellent or good for food 1, the consumer organisation uncovers a very different story.

Which? looked at hygiene reports for the past three years for 50 UK hospitals 2 and uncovered some shocking results.

The same issues cropped up time and again - dirty or mouldy equipment, cockroach infestations, no soap or hot water at hand basins, and food not properly refrigerated or kept at lukewarm temperatures that bugs love.

One of the worst reports Which? saw was on the Maudsley Hospital in south London where inspectors in 2004 and 2005 found out-of-date foods, inadequate kitchen ventilation, mice infestations and staff not following food safety procedures. Improvements have since been made and local environmental health officers are now happy with it.

Thankfully, not all hospital kitchens were dirty and several got honourable mentions - the Bedford Hospital in Fort William for example showed high standards of cleanliness.

The Which? survey 3 found only 18 per cent of NHS patients were very satisfied with the overall quality of the food provided, compared with 57 per cent of private patients.

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In fact, 29 per cent of NHS patients were still hungry after meals, compared with only 4 per cent of private patients. New mothers, who need extra calories, were particularly dissatisfied, with over half (57 per cent) left hungry after their meal.

Malnourished patients tend to stay longer in hospital, experience more complications and are at greater risk of dying than well-fed patients with the same illness, so it's vital that people receive good quality food when ill.

Neil Fowler, editor, Which?, said:

"Hospital food hasn't got the best of reputations, but you would expect the kitchens to be clean at the very least. Unfortunately, we have found this isn't always the case.

"Our survey shows a low level of satisfaction with hospital food in NHS hospitals. The government paints a rosy picture, but the reality is very different, with many patients left with a nasty taste in their mouths."

Which? is calling on the government to implement and monitor nutritional standards throughout the NHS and is sending its findings to the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency.

1. 2006 annual patient environment action team (PEAT) survey of hospital food.

2. Which? used Environmental Information Regulations legislation to request copies of hygiene inspection forms and other relevant documentation from the past three years for 50 UK hospitals. Environmental health officers regularly inspect hospital kitchens for safety and hygiene. Although all UK local authorities carry out inspections, they're under no obligation to proactively publish the results. Which? would like councils to publish this information.

3. In June and July 2006, Which? carried out an online survey of 833 members who had stayed in hospital during the past 12 months: 70 per cent had been in an NHS hospital, 25 per cent private patients in a private hospital and 5 per cent private patients in an NHS hospital.