Better hospital food campaign

We all know that patients in hospitals need food that is appealing and nutritious to properly aid their recovery.

But hard-working staff need appealing and nutritious food – and time and a place to eat it too – to keep them healthy and able to deal with their stressful and demanding jobs.

That’s why we want the government to make sure staff, as well as patients and visitors, have accesses to healthy and fairly priced meals, whatever the time of day or night.

As the trade union that represents the whole healthcare team, UNISON is now part of a strategy group being led by NHS Improvement, looking at developing national healthcare food standards. There is expected to be a public consultation and launch of the standards in late 2020.

Furthermore, UNISON recognises that until we have robust healthcare food standards in place and more options available to staff, patients and visitors that food wastage in the NHS will continue to be a huge problem, with some trusts wasting almost half of the total food produced. By tackling these issues and investing in passionate and skilled catering staff, we believe we will be one step closer to a greener NHS that works better for everyone.

UNISON’s priorities

As part of this food standards group UNISON is calling for:

  • access to healthy, nutritious and appealing food for all NHS staff, including those on night shifts
  • all food for staff, patients and visitors to be prepared in on-site kitchens, where possible, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients
  • food preparation facilities to be made available to staff who wish to bring their own meals from home
  • properly furnished and equipped meal break rooms for staff
  • free drinking water.

UNISON will be pushing for the standards that come out of this strategy group to be mandatory and enforceable and for trusts to be held accountable if they drop below these standards.

Independent review of NHS hospital food

Findings and recommendations of the independent review of NHS hospital food have now been published. We welcome the commitment from Government to take forward recommendations through the creation of an expert panel but recognise new funding must be made available to successfully deliver these.

Recommendations include many we have been calling for as part of our Better Hospital Food Campaign.

  • Funding to upgrade existing hospital kitchens and for the provision of ward kitchens, so that a 24/7 service can be provided for everyone
  • Celebrating catering staff through a package of investment including through training and pay progression using Agenda for Change pay bands
  • Recognising action catering teams can take to manage food waste and improve sustainability

Read the full report

What you can do


UNISON wants to hear from members about what facilities are like where they work. Just email us here: