The food hospital patients are given “should help rather than hinder recovery”, the Prince of Wales said yesterday at a reception to celebrate trusts that have improved the quality of their catering. 

NHS chief executives and catering managers from 14 acute and mental health trusts were praised by Prince Charles for their efforts to improve food standards at the Soil Association event, held at Clarence House in London.

The association, of which the Prince of Wales is a patron, identified the trusts as examples of “brilliant practice” in its First aid for hospital food report, published in February this year.

The report called on other trusts to follow their example, claiming that “failure to provide decent, tasty, healthy food is a result of an indefensible failure by those in charge of hospitals to understand the basic importance of good food to good health”.

Addressing representatives from the 14 trusts, the Prince of Wales said: “My only hope over the coming years is to persuade more hospitals to match your achievements.”

He said: “The food hospital patients are given should help rather than hinder recovery.”

He added: “Good quality, well prepared simple meals of great importance to improving patient satisfaction.”

Among those in attendance was Sue Morris, executive director of corporate services at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which sources virtually all of its fruit and vegetables from within Sussex.

She said sourcing food locally had proved cost effective and telling patients where the food came from helped spark interest at meal times and could aid therapy.

Mike Duckett, catering manager of the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, said the trust bought produce including free-range eggs and seasonal vegetables from farmers in south-east England.

Asked whether such initiatives could be too costly at a time of budget cuts, he insisted money was saved by cutting out middle-men. “We find it’s cheaper if you negotiate direct with the farmer,” he said.

Bedford Hospital NHS Trust director of nursing and patient services Eiri Jones, who also attended the event, said: “In-house catering is an important message. It’s all linked to patient outcomes.”

She said the trust’s restaurant had proved so popular that people came to it at weekends for their Sunday lunch.

Bedford’s chief executive, Joe Harrison, told HSJ the prince had been “very engaging” and “knew his stuff”.

Also present at the event was celebrity chef James Martin, who hosted the BBC TV series Operation Hospital Food in September. The five programmes focused on his attempts to improve the standard of food at Scarborough General Hospital in North Yorkshire.

He told HSJ the trusts highlighted by the Soil Association were “inspiring”. “These people here are doing a great job,” he said.

He added that he wanted to extend the project he had begun in Scarborough. He said: “We want to work with six hospitals next year. Even if it’s to change soup, it’s a massive difference.”

The 14 organisations present at the reception were:

  • Royal Brompton Hospital
  • Royal Marsden NHS Foundation TrustGloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation
  • North Bristol NHS Trust
  • South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Devon Partnership NHS Trust
  • Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Darlington Memorial Hospital
  • Braintree Community Hospital,
  • Bedford Memorial Hospital
  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • St Andrews Healthcare Trust
  • NHS Lothian