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NHS hospital services

Hospital food standards

The quality of food provided in hospitals is important to patients, and hospitals should cater for your personal dietary needs.

If you need a particular type of food – such as kosher, halal, vegetarian, or vegan – inform staff. You may be asked to complete a menu sheet each day.

You should also tell staff if you have concerns about your diet, or if you have lost weight or lost your appetite. If you would like help, advice or support relating to your diet, you may be referred to a dietitian.

Hospitals often operate what is called a "protected" mealtime system. This ensures nursing and catering staff are available to serve food and assist patients if necessary so they can enjoy their food in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Unless they are helping with the food service, visitors may be asked to leave or be prevented from entering the ward during the food service. At this time all other ward activities will stop.

The exact arrangements for food may differ between wards. Some wards have facilities that provide snacks or lighter meals. You may also be allowed to bring in food and store it in the ward's fridge.

However, wards often have strict rules about food for safety reasons. Non-perishable foods and drink are normally allowed. However, perishable food and drinks may be restricted or banned altogether. Check with staff on your ward about their policy.

What should I expect as a patient?

You should expect:

  • nutritious, tasty, appetising food and drink – this is an essential part of your personal package of care
  • a choice from a varied menu that includes meals suitable for your religious, cultural, or dietary needs
  • access to fresh water at all times – unless this contradicts medical advice
  • to get the help you need to eat and enjoy your meals

Hospital food data on NHS Choices

On this website, you can already compare hospitals according to a range of subjects, such as waiting times, facilities, specialist treatments, consultants, and patient safety. 

You can also see how a hospital performs according to the way it organises its food services and the quality of the food it serves. Look up your local hospital and look at the "Food choice and quality indicator".

If you're interested in a more detailed breakdown, visit the My NHS website, which publishes in-depth performance data. You can search for hospitals in England by postcode or location to find out how they are performing.

You will also be able to see how the hospital is rated for the quality and choice of its food, and whether:

  • there is a choice at breakfast
  • fresh fruit is always available
  • food is available between meals
  • the menu has been approved by a dietitian

Information is also provided about the amount the hospital spends on its food services per patient, per day.

You can find more detailed information about each indicator by clicking on the information icon displayed under each indicator. For a summary of your search results, use the "Export this data" button at the top of the page.


Hospital Food Standards Panel Report

As part of a wider initiative to improve hospital food standards, this interactive map is being published at the same time as a Hospital Food Standards Panel (HFSP) report, led by Dianne Jeffrey from Age UK.

The panel, set up by Dr Dan Poulter, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, examined existing food standards, advising on how they should be applied and monitored, and recommending future improvements.

The aim is to improve food and drink across the NHS so everyone who eats in hospital has a healthy food experience, and ensure that everyone involved in its production is valued.

Page last reviewed: 07/03/2016

Next review due: 07/03/2018

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