Hospital caterers are being urged to do more to help prevent the number of patients leaving NHS hospitals malnourished after figures revealed a leap of almost two-thirds in the past five years.
Last year 2,265 people left hospital under-nourished compared to 1,381 in 2001, according to official figures released in response to a parliamentary question.
The figures follow calls by The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) for doctors, clinical, dietetic and catering teams to work together to improve communication as well as standards.
HCA chairman Neil Watson-Jones said: "No matter how much effort is put into improving hospital cuisine, the nutritional value of an uneaten meal will always be zero."
Responding to the figures, shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien said: "Nutrition is as important as any other treatment and more cost effective, tastier and wholesome foods are available, but the Government chooses to turn a blind eye to them."
A Department of Health spokesman acknowledged good food as being "important" and said standards "had risen". He added schemes were being put in place to ensure people do not become malnourished in hospital.
"These include protected mealtimes and 'red tray' systems - where vulnerable people get their food served on a different colour tray to enable staff to easily recognise who needs special help at mealtimes," the spokesman said.
By Helen Gilbert
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