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Hospital meals for just £1.34

There is considerable variation in the value of patient meals in Welsh hospitals, with some meals costing less than £1.50, according to figures exposed by the Welsh Conservatives today.

The average cost of a patient’s hospital meal (including snacks and beverages) in the Welsh NHS is £3.05, but this varies from £3.85 in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to just £1.34 in North Wales hospitals.

Earlier this year, legally-binding contracts were introduced in the NHS in England to improve the nutritional quality of hospital meals by cutting salt, ensuring half of desserts are fruit and ensure fish is served twice a week.

Darren Millar AM, Shadow Minister for Health, said, “Receiving a nutritionally balanced diet while in hospital is key to maintaining a patient’s strength, enabling pregnant women to pass on nutrients to their unborn babies and putting ill patients on the road to recovery.

“The NHS has a considerable challenge in meeting the nutritional needs of patients with a variety of different conditions, often within a limited budget and these figures reflect that.

“A costly meal is no guarantee of nutritional quality, just as a cheap meal doesn’t necessary mean poor quality food, but these figures show a significant difference in the value of patient meals in Welsh hospitals from almost £4 per meal in Gwent to less than £1.50 in North Wales.

“Producing quality meals packed with nutrients, which enable patients to consume at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables together with regular snacks and beverages for less than the cost of a small glass of lemonade in a pub is barely believable.

“The publication of these figures comes hot on the heels of recent concerns about the hydration and general care of hospital patients following a series of spot checks throughout the Welsh NHS.

“The standard of hospital food does not have the greatest culinary reputation, but patients in North Wales may be particularly disturbed to learn how little is spent on patient food compared to other parts of the country.

“Labour Ministers should consider adopting legally-binding rules for Welsh health boards, similar to those recently adopted in England, to establish clear food standards for the Welsh NHS to ensure every patient receives the nutrients and vitamins they need.”