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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May, 2005, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
More hospital food choice call
Kitchen at St Thomas's Hospital
Around 500m is spent on hospital food in England annually
Hospitals should provide more choice in the food and drink they offer patients, catering professionals say.

The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) said it wanted to see the NHS provide a "hotel-style" food experience.

To kick-start the campaign hospitals are redesigning their menus for the day, with some offering up to 50 main course meal options.

But doctors said quality of meals needed to be improved before choice was offered.

Last weekend the British Medical Association's junior doctors conference called for TV chef Jamie Oliver to make-over hospital food after his success with school dinners.

About 500m is spent on hospital food in England each year - about 60p for each meal.

It's about being able to provide more of what patients fancy when they fancy it and more of what they associate with normality and home comforts
Alison McCree, Hospital Caterers Association

Junior doctor Eleanor Draeger, who put forward the proposal, said: "Food and nutrition are essential for health and healing and without good nutrition we are not giving patients the best chance of getting better."

But HCA chairman Alison McCree said she was disappointed doctors had criticised hospital food.

"I think a lot of improvements have been made in recent years. Surveys suggest patients are happy with the food.

"What we want to do now is offer greater choice. Of course, more money would be welcome, but I think we can do more with the resources we have."

The HCA said they would like to see hospitals offer a greater range of organic, locally-produced and fair trade food.

Options

The organisation also said patients should be offered options over drinks, such as decaffeinated coffee and herbal teas.

And caterers are being urged to allow patients to choose when they want their meals in the campaign which was launched in London on Thursday by former Masterchef host Loyd Grossman.

At the moment patients generally have to book their meals in advance and are often only given a choice of four or five dishes.

More than 2,000 wards in 140 hospitals across the UK are taking part in the National Day of Choice by offering wider choice and promoting health food options.

Ms McCree added: "The idea is that many of the hospitals will continue providing some of the options.

"It is not just about the food on the plate any more. While that is still hugely important, it is also about the whole patient food experience during a 24-hour period.

"It's about being able to provide more of what patients fancy when they fancy it and more of what they associate with normality and home comforts.

"The hospital environment is often an intimidating and unfamiliar experience so there needs to be less of a division between what people experience inside hospital and their everyday lives outside of hospital."




SEE ALSO:
TV chef welcomes 280m meals plan
30 Mar 05 |  Education
New NHS menus 'too expensive'
19 Apr 01 |  Health
Food glorious hospital food
08 May 01 |  Health


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