Spending on food for hospital patients at the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is far higher than the national average, new figures show.
According to NHS data, the trust spent £4.59million on meals for patients in the 12 months to March 2018.
During this time, 790,192 meal orders were placed by patients, giving an average spend of around £17.44 per patient per day.
Average spend across NHS trusts in England was £12.59, but this ranged from a low of £4.20 to a high of £68.12.
Trust medical director Dr Alistair Blair said: “Food is something we all need and have in common.
“Good nutrition means a better state of mind and a faster physical recovery – so patients can get back home to their loved ones quicker.
“Beyond nutrition, food – served right – is good for the soul. As such, our staff always check the last meal off the trolley to make sure it is still hot and that every patient can enjoy a tasty proper meal. Simply put: Food matters.”
Food and farming charity Soil Association, which campaigns for better food in hospitals, says high quality, nutritious food plays an important part in patient recovery.
Policy officer Rob Percival said: “There’s great variety in the food different trusts deliver to patients.
“Some hospitals serve pre-prepared meals that last a long time, others produce food fresh for patients daily on site.
“Freshly prepared meals are generally more appealing, in our experience, whereas pre-prepared meals can be pretty disgusting.
“All trusts should be investing in fresh preparation of meals as opposed to bulk purchasing.”
The amount spent on food services includes labour, delivery and management costs, alongside the cost of the food itself.
But it does not take into account the amount of food that is wasted across hospitals – a ‘huge issue’ in the NHS, according to the Soil Association.
NHS trusts recorded 137,200kg of excess meals going to waste over one seven day period in March – the equivalent of more than 7,130 tonnes every year.
The Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust did not return any data on the amount of food wasted.
NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts across England, said a number of factors could influence both the amount spent on food and the volume of waste.
A spokeswoman for NHS Improvement said: “While there will be legitimate reasons why NHS trusts spend different amounts on food, ensuring that all patients receive high-quality meals is the priority.
“We have recently launched a Healthcare Food Standards Strategy group to support trusts and drive improvement.”