Some £28m of hospital food was wasted last year as meals went untouched by patients. In some hospitals more than a fifth of main meals were thrown away untouched.

Department of Health figures show on average 8 per cent of patient main meals were “untouched” or “unserved” in 2007-08.

But at 10 hospitals more than a fifth were wasted and in one - Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys foundation trust - it was just under a third.

Patients Association vice chair Michael Summers said the food was wasted because it was poor quality and unappetising.

“It’s short sighted because good nutrition aids recovery,” he said.

“Patients Association vice chair Michael Summers said the food was wasted because it was poor quality and unappetising”

Age Concern head of public affairs Patrick South said elderly patients were often physically unable to eat the food they were presented with.

Average cost per meal was £2.65 in 2007-08, according to Hansard. That suggests at least £28m of a £342m main meal bill was wasted - just under 11 million meals.

Oversupply and waste

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys foundation trust associate director of operational services Linda Parsons said its high wastage was because instead of patients ordering their food hours in advance they were able to select what they wanted at meal times, which inevitably meant some oversupply and waste.

Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals trust deputy director of facilities Steven Clarke said its waste was partly due to a “lack of flexibility with the contracted service”.

Until recently the trust outsourced its catering to Heart of England foundation trust. But a Heart of England spokesperson said its own relatively low level of waste - 12 per cent - showed it took waste seriously.

Facilities contractor ISS provides meals for Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals trust. It said its figures were misleading as they were a “snapshot” taken on one day.

Both Alder Hey Children’s and the Christie foundation trusts said their high levels of wastage related to the nature of their patients. A spokesperson for Alder Hey said it was reviewing how it organised meals to allow patients to order closer to meal times.

Wasted hospital food, 2007-08

Trust Nameuntouched/unserved main meals% wasted
Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys foundation286,68432
Alder Hey Children’s foundation60,22525
Christie Hospital foundation47,61023
Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals trust239,90623
Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals trust194,80221

Source: Department of Health, 2009