Scottish hospital catering services are improving but NHS trusts must focus more on delivering proper nutritional care for patients, an official report will reveal today.
The Catering for Patients report by spending watchdog Audit Scotland was based on checks of 149 hospitals across 16 boards. It warned that many trusts still need to do more to ensure patients get balanced nutritional diets while they are recovering.
Despite recent improvements, not all patients are yet screened for malnutrition, and many hospitals do not have systems in place to ensure their meals are nutritionally balanced, the report found.
But it also showed that over the past three years NHS boards have improved the level of food choices they give patients.
Trusts now offer a range of portion sizes, cater for differing diets such as vegetarians, vegans and ethnic minorities, and give patients more flexibility to choose their food closer to mealtimes. Additionally, food wastage has been reduced and there is now better information available to help control costs.
Barbara Hurst, director of public reporting in health at Audit Scotland, said: "Scotland's health boards are providing more choice and catering for patients with different diets, but they need to do more to ensure patients are getting the nutritional care they need as a matter of priority."
In 2004-05 Scotland's NHS spent £73m on hospital catering, employed more than 3,000 staff, and produced more than 17 million meals.
While catering costs have risen by a third since Audit Scotland last published a hospital food report in 2003, this increase has been widely attributed to the impact of the Low Pay Agreement on catering staff, with food and beverage costs per patient remaining stable.
Hospital catering survey shows patient dissatisfaction >>By Daniel Thomas