Government response

DH’s response to Sustain’s hospital food standards campaign

Department of Health’s response to Sustain’s hospital food standards campaign.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The Department’s improving hospital food project, launched by the Secretary of State in 2012, was well received by its partners and welcomed by Sustain.

The project identified 8 fundamental principles that patients should expect from hospital food. Most important amongst them was that hospitals should adopt government buying standards for food and catering services (Food GBS) where practical and supported by procurement practices.

The government’s preferred approach remains to encourage the adoption of Food GBS within the NHS through incentives, signposting and assessments. Positive actions have now been taken in support of this aim, specifically:

  • there is now a mechanism for financial incentives to be made available to providers that adopt Food GBS standards
  • the NHS Supply Chain (which supplies 40% of NHS providers with food and drink products) now flags up for the NHS those meals that are compliant with food standards
  • the new patient-led assessments of the care environment (PLACE) process includes an enhanced food assessment and collects information about compliance with the Food GBS
  • 2 highly successful national events to encourage best practice around hospital food have been held in Nottingham and Hull

The Food GBS, first introduced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2011, is scheduled for review later this year. DH will actively contribute to this review and will be working to see how the standards can be developed and refined to support continued improvements. The new PLACE process will continue to be used to assess the uptake of Food GBS in hospitals.

In order to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), providers must show that they provide adequate food and drink. However, the role of the CQC is changing. A Chief Inspector of hospitals has been appointed and is responsible for judging how well hospitals protect the interests of people who use their services. He will also be charged with leading the CQC’s inspection regime for hospitals, including developing a ratings system. The CQC began a consultation on the way it regulates, inspects and monitors care on 17 June. There will be further debate about the nature of future registration requirements for nutrition and hydration and how these might be monitored.

Hospitals should ensure that patients have healthy food, taking into consideration individual patient needs. Patient feedback is important to improving quality and so, since April, all providers of NHS services have been using the Friends and Family test in acute inpatient wards and A&E departments. This simple question asks the patient whether they would recommend the service they have used to their friends and family, if they needed similar care or treatment. The results will help drive up quality, allowing providers to react to feedback and improve their services where they are falling short.

Published 2 September 2013