is £4.50 a day really enough to provide three tasty and nutritious meals? Well, patients staying in Lothian hospitals will certainly know the answer to that.
It’s true that a skilled cook can do an awful lot with a few good, basic ingredients without having to spend a lot of money.
But an average of £1.50 a meal will be a true test of those who make the food served up on the wards by NHS Lothian. Jamie Oliver would have to take his chef’s hat off to any of them that pulled it off.
It’s not a test that the chefs who provide meals at up to £18 a time for the health board’s VIP guests have to worry about. There won’t presumably be much left on those plates when they are cleared away.
Okay, we all push the boat out for special guests – but who exactly are the important people visiting our hospitals?
Are they the visiting dignitaries who get to enjoy this fine dining? Or are they actually the patients who are getting the £1.50 meals?
Good food is a vitally important part of the care we receive in hospital. The meals not only need to be nutritious, they also need to be enticing. For many patients, especially the older among us, one of the first things that goes when we are poorly is our appetite.
An unappealing meal is far more likely to go untouched than something that has been freshly prepared with care and not too much of an eye on keeping costs rock bottom.
Skimping on the cost of hospital food is surely a false economy in the long run. How many people stay in hospital for longer because they are not eating properly and therefore take longer to fully recover?
Serving meals to corporate guests that cost more than 11 times the cost of the ingredients used for patients meals sends out the wrong signal about the health service’s priorities. The most important guests in our hospitals are the patients – and they should always be the top priority.