Hospital food is increasingly provided by private contractors, a survey of the catering industry shows.

The number of hospitals and nursing homes in the UK using outside caterers has more than doubled since 1990, from 365 to 822, according to a report from the British Hospitality Association.

The election of a Labour government has done nothing to halt the trend.

The number of organisations using private contractors rose 17 per cent last year, from 704 to 822 outlets. These included 338 NHS hospitals and 67 private ones.

William McCall, chair of the Contract Catering Forum, said the healthcare market is one of the biggest potential growth areas for members.

Contract Catering Survey 1999. The British Hospitality Association, Queen's House, 55-6 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BH.