As George Osborne warns £25bn more cuts are needed, a new report claims some NHS Trust hospitals are spending just 69p on patient meals. "Worse than prison," was the verdict of one hospital trust.
Some of the cuts are dramatic: Lambeth primary care trust slashed spending from £15.26 to £4.89 per patient per day.
Too much wasteSome patients in Scottish hospitals, it transpires, are being fed on less than £2 a day - less than the cost of a high street cappuccino. Dundee's Ninewells hospitals was singled out as spending just £1.69 a day.
The cost of hospital food, often compared with the cost of prison food, is tricky. Often patients' need help with eating, meaning a lot of waste. While same-day surgery means some people don't spend much time reliant on being fed hospital food, many people are in hospital for long spells, needing good nutrition for recovery.
The Campaign for Better Hospital Food has criticised the quality of food, often high in salt, dished up to UK NHS patients, and accused the Government of exaggerating the quality of hospital food.
Big regional differences"We've had enough of the government using poor excuses and fiddled figures to justify why it won't introduce mandatory quality standards for patient meals," said Alex Jackson from the campaigning group. "Ministers," Jackson added, "must be living on another planet if they think it's acceptable to set standards to improve meals served to prisoners, but not to sick patients".
The Department of Health has raised the amount the NHS spends on food per year overall. On average UK hospital trusts spend more than £9.50 a day on patient food, up by more than £1 on last year. But there are wide variations on how the cash is spent.
While some NHS patients are fed 69p 'slop', a recent Freedom of Information request by the Independent on Sunday saw many hospital trusts spending millions on artwork. It found 89 NHS Trusts had spent almost £2m on art since 2010, though the true figure is though likely to be higher.