Revealed: Variance between wastage and spend on food at Norfolk's hospitals

PUBLISHED: 08:00 24 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:42 24 September 2017

A hospital meal. Photo: Nick Butcher

A hospital meal. Photo: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2005

More than 17,000 meals were wasted at Norfolk’s hospitals over the course of a year, new figures have revealed.

Patients being discharged, unwell or asleep topped reasons why food was thrown away. But the actual number of meals wasted is likely to be much higher, as data at the region’s busiest hospital was not available.

The QEH binned the most meals out of the trio in 2016/17, with approximately 9,666 meals wasted a year - at the cost of more than £30,000. At JPUH 7,277 meals were wasted in 2016/17 - at a cost of £23,213. At NNUH, information was not provided as the data “is not centrally recorded”, but results would likely push the total figure much higher. Emma McKay, NNUH director of nursing, said the hospital was implementing a way of measuring its food wastage.

The data also revealed how much was spent on providing three meals to a patient at the hospital every day. The QEH spent the least, with a bill of £3.25 per patient for three meals per day. At JPUH, £9.57 was the total and NNUH spent £7.64 per patient for their breakfast, lunch and dinner. Associate director of patient experience at QEH, Claire Roberts, said they kept costs low as they kept meals as an in-house service.

Spokesmen for all three trusts said nutrition was key for recovery, and they received positive feedback on meals.

At JPUH, head of facilities management Nicola Hicks said different coloured plates were used to indicate smaller portions. She said: “There is good communication with ward housekeepers and ward staff who notify the catering team if a patient no longer requires a meal.”

Ms Roberts said the QEH had “increased personal support at meal times, improved seasonality of menus, utilised produce from local suppliers and increased availability of finger foods”. Ms McKay said the NNUH “meet the standards set out by the Care Quality Commission and Hospital Food Standard” and a multidisciplinary team helped plan menus.

Katherine Button, from the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, said: “There are no firm rules on what food hospitals can or can’t serve to patients so of course the amount hospitals spend on food, and unacceptable food waste, varies hugely from hospital to hospital. But it’s time for Jeremy Hunt to lead NHS food out of the dark ages and set proper hospital food standards.”

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