'Find out why patients' food quality varies'
HEALTH watchdogs are calling for an investigation into why patients' views on the state of hospital food vary between different hospitals.
Campaigners have been left baffled by the disparity because the same private company supplies the food across North Staffordshire's hospitals.
The disparity was found in surveys of patients by Stoke-on-Trent Local Involvement Network (LINk) at four of the area's community hospitals.
Overwhelming numbers of respondents at Haywood, Longton Cottage, Bradwell and Cheadle hospitals rated their food as either excellent or good – with just eight per cent saying it was very poor or inedible.
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But a similar poll carried out at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire revealed 21 per cent had classed their meals as being very poor or inedible.
LINk team leader Dave Rushton said: "With Sodexo supplying both the University Hospital and the community hospitals we would have expected similar results. But such a difference is surprising and we feel it should be investigated to find out what is going on."
This summer's University Hospital Foodwatch report revealed some of the 145 respondents complained about 'frozen' sandwiches, cold toast and 'rock hard' pastry.
Although there was a high general approval rating, other grievances included patients at the end of wards finding their choices had run out or gone cold by the time trolleys reached them and menus being lost, leading to confusion over what dishes had been ordered.
But the views of 99 patients on 13 wards at the community hospitals has found only three of them criticised the meals, with the poor quality of bread the main reason.
Many said the meals were better than at the University Hospital and Burslem's Haywood Hospital came in for particular praise. Leek Moorlands Hospital was omitted because it was being refurbished.
Respondents in both surveys highlighted the long wait between tea – which is served as early as 4pm – and their next meal the following morning.
Research leader Barbara Mawby said: "The survey shows there is a high rate of patient satisfaction with the community hospitals."
The community hospitals are run by Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust.
Nursing director Siobhan Heafield said: "We are working with Sodexo to provide snacks between teatime and the following morning on all wards."