Prison meals cost more than Scottish NHS patients’

Hospital food has often failed to meet expectations, as in a patient's picture of macaroni cheese
Hospital food has often failed to meet expectations, as in a patient's picture of macaroni cheese
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NEW Year’s Day meals served in some Scottish hospitals cost less than half those dished up to prisoners in the nation’s jails, it has been revealed.

While prisoners have an average of between £2.47 and £2.75 spent on their food every day, NHS Tayside’s festive menus cost as little as £1.22.

The most expensive meal dished up in the region’s hospitals cost £1.87, and featured pate and oatcakes, steak pie, creamed potatoes, carrots and peas, and strawberry cheesecake for dessert.

Meanwhile inmates at Castle Huntly open prison, located between Perth and Dundee, started the day with hot rolls and cereal for breakfast.

They then enjoyed a dinner choice of steak pie, Wexford cheddar cheese tart or halal curry, mashed potatoes, a medley of vegetables and a dessert of sticky toffee ice cream.

Inmates at Glenochil jail, near Alloa, which houses some of Scotland’s most notorious prisoners, not only enjoyed a “butcher’s finest” steak pie for lunch, but were then treated to a night-time supper pack containing fresh fruit, noodles, a baguette, a Mars bar, a Mars mini roll and a ginger biscuit.

NHS Tayside has defended its festive menus, but politicians said improvements must be made.

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Murdo Fraser, MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, said: “Any situation where food for convicted murderers and rapists costs more than that for patients will not sit well with the public.

“Both prisoners and patients should have access to a healthy diet built on quality food, and that means we must see an improvement in hospital meals in 2015.”

Mr Fraser had recently praised the prison service for its sensible approach to Christmas menus.

He added: “Patients recovering from illness or operation require a certain level of sustenance to ensure their recovery and whilst not suggesting they aren’t getting this, there have to be questions over the value of meals costing as little as £1.22 to make.

“Health boards, like NHS Tayside, are under financial pressure and it would not surprise me if they are targeting catering budgets before taking money out of frontline care. The Scottish Government wants us to live healthier lifestyles, but this must start with patients in their care enjoying the best possible diet. Doctors and nurses in NHS Tayside are working flat-out and it is high time the Scottish Government gave them the tools to do their job.”

Drew Walker, director for public health at NHS Tayside, stressed that there had been no reduction in the catering budget nor patient meal costs over the last five years. He said: “Since the introduction of food, fluid and nutritional care standards in hospitals in 2003, NHS Tayside has worked to continually improve the quality of meals for patients.

“We are constantly developing our menus with input from patients, staff and the public to ensure we continue to deliver freshly prepared, nutritious and appetising meals.

“Catering staff work extremely hard to prepare a wide range of meals every day which are nutritionally balanced and cater for individual patients’ dietary requirements.”

Mr Walker said that the cost of meals is monitored through measures such as the standardisation of recipes, ingredient control and keeping wastage down.

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