§ Mr. Burstow
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the average cost per hospital meal was(a) before and (b) after implementation of the Government's Better Hospital Food programme; and if he will make a statement. 788W
§ Mr. Lammy
[holding answer 12 December 2002]: The better hospital food programme is designed to improve the quality, availability and access to food in hospitals and is a long-term programme. An additional £38.5 million has been made available to support this programme.
The costs of providing meals varies, depending both on the particular dish involved and the method of production. Typically, a traditional system produces meals more cheaply, while a delivered meals service is more expensive. A report by the Audit Commission in September 2001 found average spending on food and beverages was £2.20 for a cook-serve system, £2.40 for a national health service operated cook-chill/freeze service, and £3.70 for a delivered meals service. However, there are a number of other issues such as overheads and capital replacement charges, which also vary according to the production system in use and which affect overall costs. There is therefore no average per meal cost.
As part of the better hospital food programme, acute hospitals have been asked to include in their menus each day three of the dishes designed for the NHS by the `leading chef team. These dishes encompass main meals, desserts, salads and sandwiches. There are now 200 'leading chef' dishes included in the NHS dish selector and average costs for these dishes is no greater than those for other dishes currently in use in NHS hospitals.