EVERYONE knows how important an appetising and nutritious meal is when you are ill.
Our mothers knew it when we were growing up and we have been talking for years about getting it right in our hospitals, too.
There has been some improvement since a meagre 59 per cent of patients at the ERI said they were happy with their food and drink a few years ago.
And the very existence of the competition which NHS Lothian has won for devising a mouth-watering menu on an NHS budget shows that at least some minds are focused on making things better.
But there is still a stark contrast between the standards which the health service aspires to and what is sometimes actually delivered. What starker illustration of that could there be than the events we report on today.
Smoked mackerel pate with chilli and coriander oatcakes anyone? How about Ayrshire pork stuffed with black pudding and haggis, potatoes and steamed vegetables?
As NHS Lothian’s chefs have shown, there is no reason why you cannot produce extremely appealing food on a tight budget.
Of course, sometimes we don’t want gourmet dishes and nothing appeals more than something simple like corned beef hash or some stovies.
But that can still look good with a little care and attention to detail. The hash that was served up to Susan Drummond might have been perfectly nutritious but when the food on your plate looks like a pile of mush then it is extremely off-putting.
It is no good serving good food which looks awful because more often than not it will end up in the bin. So how do you solve a problem that has plagued the NHS for years?
Producing tasty and attractive meals may not be rocket science, but it is not the easiest task in the world when you are catering for thousands of patients and staff and you are struggling to attract and keep enough good workers.
First of all, the health service should take advantage of the expertise on its doorstep.
Our hospitals clearly have some talented chefs but just think what they and the serving staff could achieve with some direction and inspiration from a chef as talented and charismatic as Mark Greenaway. He is offering his help so why not take advantage?
At the same time, someone – perhaps the ward matron – needs to take charge of ensuring that standards are kept up. Meals like that served to Ms Drummond need to be consigned to the dustbin before they are served – not after.