Takeaways and fizzy pop putting health of NHS workforce at risk, warns UNISON

Poor quality hospital food is undermining the health of NHS workers, a survey from UNISON and the Campaign for Better Hospital Food (CBHF) warns today (Wednesday).

Nurses and other health employees are being forced to survive on fast food – or on poor quality vending machine snacks­­­ – because hospitals are failing to provide proper facilities, according to the Better Hospital Food survey. More than a quarter (29%) of respondents often work night shifts yet almost half (49%) of hospital canteens close before 8pm which limits staff access to healthy meals.

The survey ­- based on responses from nearly 4,000 NHS employees – also highlights how patients are served unappealing food, that often does not taste very good. These are meals that more than half (55%) the staff say they would not be prepared to eat themselves.

Huge differences also exist between the quality of food cooked on site and meals brought onto hospital premises by private contractors. Almost nine in ten (86%) staff report receiving negative comments from patients about food prepared elsewhere.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “Healthy hospital food that is available around the clock is essential for dedicated staff who are working night shifts caring for patients. Yet nurses and other NHS workers often have no choice but to resort to meals that are high in salt, fat and sugar.

“Both staff and patients deserve better. An overhaul of NHS food is needed urgently, and enforceable standards introduced so that hospitals can be held to account if they breach them. Takeaways and fizzy pop don’t make for a healthy workforce.”

CBHF campaign officer Katherine Button said: “This report into the state of staff food has our full support and the results make clear that much more needs to be done to drive up the quality of food in NHS hospitals. We welcome NHS England’s latest health and wellbeing targets as a positive step in the right direction.

“We now need to build on this momentum to put the focus on hospital retailers and suppliers to ensure that staff working hard for patients have access to healthy meals and snacks 24 hours a day.”

Notes for editors:

  • The UNISON and CBHF survey was carried out in March 2016 and received 3,650 responses from staff. The majority were based in hospitals.  For the survey findings click here
  • UNISON is campaigning to improve hospital food standards with the CBHF, an initiative run by the Sustain alliance who advocate for better food and farming practices.
  • The survey is released on the last day of UNISON’s annual health conference, which is being held in Brighton.

 Media contacts:
Liz Chinchen E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk M: 07778 158175
Sophie Goodchild E: s.goodchild@unison.co.uk M: 07767 325595