The Patients Association was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care to conduct a survey on patients' experience of hospital catering and their suggestions for improvements that could be made. This work was designed to complement, and feed into, the work of the NHS Hospital Food Review Panel.

Patients who had spent one or more nights in hospital in the past six months were asked about their experiences of hospital catering and several clear themes emerged from the responses we collected. Being offered a choice of meals was very important and 88% of people reported they had been given a choice, although in some cases patients felt there should be more options for vegetarians or those with dietary needs. Quality of food, temperature, presentation and healthiness of meals were all a high priority to hospital patients. 

65% of patients said that food impacted their overall experience of being in hospital, although disappointingly, only 20% said food had improved their stay, so there is definitely room for improvement. 

Patient views on what could improve hospital food

We also asked whether patients (if mobile enough) would use a shared dining space with other patients if it were available. There was a fairly even split between those who said they would, and those who wouldn't use a space like this, with explanations focused around it providing an opportunity to socialise and get away from beds, to concerns about cross-infection and not feeling comfortable around strangers (especially while vulnerable). Once again, the ability to choose whether to use such spaces was a priority for respondents. 

This report explains the method, results and conclusions drawn from this work, and also includes a list of suggested recommendations for the NHS Hospital Food Review Panel to consider. These recommendations could also be of use to hospitals and catering managers when making decisions about food for patients.

We would like to thank our members and supporters who took the time to complete the survey, sharing their experiences, opinions and suggestions. You can stay updated with our work and make sure your voice gets heard by joining the Patients Association. Membership is free and it only takes a moment to sign up

Download a PDF of our report and recommendations.