Dozens of NHS hospitals are failing to meet top food hygiene ratings.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA), which regularly inspects hospitals as well as other food providers, ranks food hygiene out of five. An NHS review said that all hospitals should aspire to meet this score.
However, since 2022, 35 hospitals that have been ranked below five stars.
This includes Colchester Hospital in Essex and William Harvey Hospital in Kent, which were rated just two stars, meaning ‘some improvement’ is needed.
Six other locations were granted three stars, signalling their hygiene standards are ‘generally satisfactory’.
Your browser does not support iframes.
The HSJ, which published the data, said Colchester Hospital’s two-star ranking last year was based on problems with cleaning standards and hygienic food handling.
East Suffolk and North East Essex Foundation Trust, which runs the site, told the news site that it immediately put measures in place to address the issues.
William Harvey Hospital received its score in October. East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust said it had since implemented new cleaning measures.
Other sites ranking below five stars reported that they improved their services since their inspection or were in the process of doing so, such as additional training.
The hospitals given three stars include Warrington Hospital, St Albans City Hospital and St Martins Hospital in Kent.
Some smaller sites, such as individual hospital wards or units, have logged even lower scores, the data shows.
A service run by facility management company Mitie at the Woodbury Unit at Whipps Cross Hospital was given zero stars, signalling that urgent improvement is necessary.
North East London Foundation Trust told the HSJ that it immediately closed the area while it resolves the problems.
A review of NHS hospital food in 2020, led by Bake Off judge Prue Leith, states that that all hospitals should ‘aspire to achieve five stars’ for food hygiene and maintain a minimum of four stars.
The hospital in Cambridgeshire also offered a plate of broccoli and cauliflower in a cheese sauce for dinner on another occasion. ‘I have had numerous stays in the past few years, the food in dreadful,’ the patient told MailOnline. ‘The amount of food on the menu that is regularly unavailable is ridiculous’
Another patient was served a rotten jacket potato while undergoing treatment for appendicitis at a hospital in North Yorkshire in December 2020. Sally Teston said the potato ‘was black inside’. Staff were unable to replace it ‘until everyone else had been served their and I had to wait for what was left’, she added. While Covid restrictions remained in place during her hospital stay, ‘I had to get my mum to bring meals up to the hospital doors and I would go out to meet her as I was not allowed visitors,’ she said
Around 190 acute sites and hundreds of mental health or community facilities had a five-star ranking, according to the FSA figures.
The FSA food hygiene rating scheme ranks food providers from zero to five. The score is displayed at the premises and online to help people make informed choices.
The agency notes that its rating is only a snapshot of food standards at the time of its visit and businesses must follow food hygiene rules at all times.
Food hygiene scores aren’t a marker of food quality, customer service or presentation at restaurants, takeaways, schools or hospitals, it adds.
Brits have separately complained about the quality of NHS food for years.
Many have shared pictures of the ‘unappetizing’ and ‘inedible’ meals they have been served in hospital, such as a plate of broccoli and cauliflower in a cheese for dinner and a rotten jacket potato.
In November 2022, NHS England launched national standards for hospital food, which are legally binding.
Among the eight standards are a requirement for trusts to offer hot food 24/7 and letting patients choose their dinner from bed.
More vegetable and fish dishes must also be made available.
It came in the wake of Dame Prue’s blueprint for better hospital food, which called on the NHS to make healthier and better quality meals.
She also said all hospitals should have digital meal ordering by 2022, serve meals on china and ‘go green’ to slash the 14million kg of wasted meals thrown out by the NHS every year.
The review was commissioned by ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in August 2019 after six patients died from listeria which they contracted from hospital sandwiches and salads.