Almost half of hospital patients supplement their hospital food with offerings brought in by visitors, the biggest survey of its kind has revealed.
Food Watch, a co-operative venture between patient and public involvement forums, co-ordinated the survey of 2,240 patients in 97 hospitals to paint a dismal picture.
In addition to the 40 per cent of patients who rely on visitors to bring food, over a third (37 per cent) left their meal because it looked, smelt or tasted unappetising. One in four did not get the help they needed with feeding and one in five said the food was served too hot or too cold. Almost a fifth of patients (18 per cent) did not get a choice of meals.
A West London Mental Health trust patient described their meals as 'disgusting, vile, nasty, sloppish, piggish'. An elderly man at Derriford Hospital, part of Plymouth Hospitals trust, said the menu 'never' changed.
But there were plenty of positive comments too.
A South Tees Hospital trust patient said: 'I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was.'
Sharon Grant, chair of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health that helped to co-ordinate Food Watch, said it was disappointing to find such a poor picture five years after the Better Hospital Food Programme was launched with£40m of government investment.
She said: 'Hospital food has been subjected to more initiatives than it tries to provide hot dinners. But it still remains a joke.'