You are a middle-aged man coming round from a minor but painful op in a sensitive area. What would you like to eat? Chicken soup, an egg and cress sandwich, jacket potato and chocolate mousse? That was supper one December evening for Roy Whitfield at Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon. Admittedly, the sandwich was ordered because he misread the dull brown, tick-box menu. And he could have had a vegetarian sausage, Cornish pasty and tomatoes or a salad.

The food was handed out from a pile carried by an overworked nurse. It was removed by an orderly before most patients had time to start, much less finish, their pudding. But the potato was 'quite good'. Plaudits over a fourday stay also went to a bowl of lentil soup and the chips.

Meanwhile, Mr Whitfield was given ice-cream the night he was coming round from his anaesthetic, but since it was wrapped in 'polythene tubing with indestructible ends', he didn't get to eat that, either.

Asked to make way for an emergency from the local private hospital at 11pm, Mr Whitfield spent a morning in the hospital's private wing. At breakfast he was asked: 'Would I like milk on my cornflakes at room temperature or chilled? And what would I like on my toast - there was a choice of two marmalades or jams.' The lunch menu read 'like a country club': his choices were melon with summer fruits, 'beautifully cooked' roast beef, Yorkshire pudding with onion gravy, 'plenty' of vegetables and 'capital' bread and butter pudding.