NHS wastes £250k on uneaten food

HUNDREDS of thousands of pounds is spent every year throwing away untouched hospital meals in the Lothians, figures have shown.

Nearly 250,000 was wasted last year after meals prepared for NHS Lothian patients were not eaten.

In some hospitals more than one in ten meals was consigned to the bin without a morsel being eaten, while the overall average for the region was one meal in every 13 thrown away.

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Local health chiefs are aware of the amounts involved, but privately have said there is little that can be done to prevent it in certain circumstances, particularly when it came to serving food to children or the mentally ill.

Patients' watchdogs said the cash could be better spent on nurses and drugs, and that more had to be done to reduce waste in hospitals.

Dr Jean Turner, director of the Scotland Patients Association, said: "It seems like they're throwing pound notes down the drain.

"You would think a good manager would look at this and do something about it.

"It's a disgrace to be throwing food away in this day and age, particularly in an institution like the NHS.

"This is cash that could be spent on hiring more nurses or funding for more drugs. It may not just be a case of patients not liking the food, sometimes they are not given the help they need to eat it."

The figures, obtained by the Evening News under Freedom of Information, show meals that were prepared but not touched, and does not include half-eaten meals.

It is understood the figures show food that was prepared but never served, along with the food refused by patients.

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Herdmanflat Hospital in East Lothian was the worst for food waste, with one in every seven meals thrown out at a cost of 35,000 last year.

At the Sick Kids one meal in eight was discarded, while it was one in eleven at Liberton elderly people's hospital.

The record at acute hospitals was slightly better, with only one meal in 13 wasted at the Western General. Far and away the hospital with least waste was St John's in Livingston, where only 5000 worth of food was thrown out.

Figures for the ERI were not included because private company Consort – which built the Little France hospital – takes care of the catering.

The Evening News revealed last week how the ERI's canteen throws away around 32,000 portions of food every year.

Cash spent by the health board on food in recent years has risen steadily. Last year 3.1 million was paid out, compared to 2.6m the year before, the most substantial rise in years.

George Curley, acting director of facilities, NHS Lothian, said: "Menus are carefully devised with the assistance of our dietetic staff to provide nutritious, healthy food for patients to aid their recovery. Providing choice on food is an important element in helping people get better."

• www.nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk

• www.scotlandpatients.com