NHS chiefs have ordered hospitals in England to improve patient meals by providing hot food options around the clock and allowing people to order their meals from their bed at any time of the day.

In an effort to combat negative views on ‘dreary’ hospital food, NHS Trusts have also been told to serve more vegetable and fish-based meals and reduce the amount of chips they give to patients.

Hospitals are now also expected to serve patient meals on china plates rather than single-use, plastic alternatives.

The NHS is making these changes off the back of a hospital food review by famous cook Dame Prue Leith, who is also a judge on The Great British Bake Off.

Nutritionists have welcomed the new standards but have urged hospitals to make the meals taste nice. They said: “A healthy meal that is not eaten doesn’t really benefit anyone.”

According to the new NHS national standards, most hospitals across the country have been criticised for their cheap and dreary food options.

It states: “Not enough healthy options are consistently available, sustainability is poorly embedded and too much food is wasted.”

Hospitals are being told provide a bigger variety of fruit and vegetables and offer more protein sources rather than just meat.

Each Trust has been told to have an online ordering platform to highlight to patients which options meet their dietary requirements.

A food nutrition and safety board director will also be employed at every hospital to ensure the new rules are followed.

Dietitian Dr Duane Mellor said: “The rules are a great step forward. It is vital that food service is seen as a core part of holistic health care and not just a hotel service to be delivered at the lowest cost.

“The programme will need considerable financial and resource investment. It will ultimately improve patient care and experience and save money — with respect to both food waste and ultimately length people are in hospital — as better nutrition and hydration is known to improve many health outcomes.”

Each year, the NHS serves approximately 140 million meals to patients and an extra 1.2 million to employees.

Philip Shelley, Chair of the NHS Food Review, added: “Good food plays a vital role in promoting health and powering recovery for patients and is equally important for our hardworking staff too.

“Our new hospital food standards come at minimal cost and clamp down on unnecessary food waste – a win-win for patients, visitors and staff, and taxpayers too.”

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