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‘Putting Patients First’ is the key aim for new hospital food report


Today (Wednesday, January 25, 2017) the Patients Association has released an independent report that identifies in-patient food, drink and meal service preferences while in hospital. The report entitled ‘Putting Patients First’ provides a patient-centred insight into the experience of patient meals, which is supported by a series of recommendations for food service providers and hospitals to help ensure patients are getting what they want and need.

Food and drink provided for patients in hospitals is an essential element of care. The benefits of improving nutritional care and providing adequate hydration are immense, particularly for those with long-term conditions and problems such as strokes, pressure ulcers or falls.  An estimated 30% of patients admitted to acute hospitals are at risk of malnutrition[1]. The importance of good nutrition, coupled with advice and support, is particularly important.

To support the release of the report, an event was held for Chief Executive Officers and Directors of NHS Hospital Trusts, as well as key health and political stakeholders. Attendees listened to the findings of the report from Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association and Steven Cenci, the Healthcare Managing Director of Compass Group UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest catering and support services firm.   Guest speaker Prue Leith, who is a well-known restaurateur, novelist and hospital food campaigner, shared her thoughts on the topic of hospital foodservice.   

The ‘Putting Patients First’ report, looks at preferences, experience, service, and fulfilment of nutritional needs. Key findings include:

  • Patients rated hospital meals an average of 7.4 out of 10 and staff service a score of 8.5 out of 10; and,
  • A majority (75%) of patients would recommend the total service to someone if they were an in-patient in hospital.

The top three meal preferences were:

  • 'tastes good' (20% of mentions);
  • 'right amount of choice' (15% of mentions); and,
  • 'food at the right temperature' (also 15% of mentions).
  • The origin of food (captured in the survey by the priority option 'locally and ethically sourced‘) did not materialise as very important to people compared to other things, ranking last out of the 10 possible priorities with only 2% of mentions.


  • 11% of patients were ‘dissatisfied,’ including patients who identified themselves as part of the following groups:
    • younger patients (19-39);
    • those with special dietary requirements;
    • non-white British patients; people who had been in hospital for longer (>14 days); and,
    • and those people where a family member was answering on behalf of the patient.


  • Patients rated staff service highly with 34% giving staff 10/10 and an average score of 8.5; and,
  • In general, patients were happy with the time meals were served at, with an average satisfaction rate of 80.5%.

Fulfilment of nutritional needs

  • 16% of patients said they did not always have drinking water in reach, and this figure rose to 26% in one hospital;
  • 25% of patients were never (15%) or only sometimes (10%) offered help with eating when required; and,
  • Out of the patients who had special dietary requirements, 95% stated their needs were well met. Worryingly only 16% of overall patients said they received advice about nutrition and eating, a figure which was expected to be higher.

A series of 16 recommendations have been published as a result of the report, highlighting what food providers, servers of food, hospitals and regulators can all do to make a difference to the patient experiences.  

Out of the 16 points the major recommendations include:

  • Providers should work to satisfy the top three patient priorities for meal experience: taste, choice and temperature.
  • Developing menus and ensuring correct provision of meals for those with special dietary requirements, from minority ethnic backgrounds and patients with a longer stay in hospital.
  • Fostering strong relationships between staff serving food and clinical staff to gain full understanding and satisfaction of individual patient needs.
  • Ensuring all patients are supported with eating, are provided with nutritional advice and constant access to hydration and nutritional necessities such as water and three meals a day.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said:

“Food in hospitals is a really important issue. There is currently little empirical evidence on the factors that influence patients’ willingness to eat or not to eat their meals whilst in hospital. We hope that this study will help provide food service providers, hospitals and those who serve the food with practical recommendations that will make a real difference to the patient experience.

“Identifying where the industry is excelling and under-performing is crucial to raising foodservice within hospitals. Hospitals must strive to deliver good quality food that patients enjoy.”   

Commenting on the new research, Prue Leith, restaurateur and campaigner, said:

“Throughout my career I’ve championed decent food for people in hospital. So it’s great to see The Patients Association undertaking this piece of work.

“It’s not just that good nutritious food plays such an important  a role in patient recovery, but meals can be the highlight of a patient’s day, a small interlude of pleasure in what is often a painful, boring or dull day. Most importantly, food has to be delicious. Otherwise it will end in the bin which is where a shocking percentage of hospital dinners go. While I understand that budgets are tight, it is not impossible to feed patients well. Some hospitals do an excellent job so we know it can be done. I very much hope that the recommendations are taken on board by Trusts and foodservice providers across the UK.”

Steven Cenci, Managing Director – Healthcare, Compass Group UK & Ireland, stated:

“We are proud of our track record of delivering good quality nutritional food as we know the important role food plays in a patient’s well-being as well as their morale when in hospital. We will be taking on board the recommendations of this report and will look to work closely with the Patient’s Association to ensure we are doing all we can at the hospitals we operate at, to deliver patients with a food offer that they want”.



Information relating to the external parties

If you have a press enquiry or would like to find out more about undertaking an independent project or survey with The Patients Association please contact victoria@patients-association.com or 02084239111.

For any enquiries relating to Compass Group UK & Ireland, Medirest contact the Communications Team on 01895 554 999 or email uk.communications@compass-group.co.uk


[1] BAPEN Nutrition Screening Week data (http://www.bapen.org.uk)