Significant differences have been revealed in how much hospitals in Scotland are spending on food for patients.
Figures show a difference in average weekly spends of up to a third in mainland health boards.
Research by the Scottish Conservatives shows a gulf between the country’s two largest health boards, with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spending an average of £76 per patient per week, compared with NHS Lothian’s £102.
In island health boards the gap is larger, with NHS Shetland patients receiving £230 a week worth of food and drink, and Orkney patients £139.
The importance of hospital food quality and nutrition has been repeatedly raised, with experts saying it is key to helping patients make a good recovery.
Brian Whittle MSP, Scottish Conservative health education spokesman, said he was concerned about the disparity of provision across Scotland.
He said: “It’s absolutely vital that hospital food is healthy, of good quality and appetising. If we can’t look to our NHS to do that, who can we expect to lead the way on this?
“The disparity in spending between health boards is extremely concerning.
“You would expect island health boards to have a far higher spend because of transportation issues, and everyone accepts that.
“However, it’s less clear why patients in Glasgow receive nearly £30 less per head every week than those in Edinburgh and other health boards.
“Good, nutritious food is absolutely key to patients making a strong recovery from whatever ailment they’re suffering from.
“But this data clearly points to a lower quality of meal in some parts of the country, and the Scottish Government needs to intervene to ensure there is more quality across the board.”
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients’ Association, said meals should be standardised across health boards. “Those controlling the budget for patients’ meals seem to forget that good nutrition is good for the patient and helps get them out of hospitals quicker. Instead, patients are accused of ‘bed-blocking.’
“There will be issues over how much funding each health board gets, but these disparities are too big.
“Patients across Scotland should be getting the same level of food, at the higher end of the budget.”
Ms Watt added: “The Scottish Government says it has guidelines on feeding patients.
“But what is needed is a someone like Jamie Oliver coming in and devising menus like he did for schools, and nutritionists being appointed in each board to carry it through.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government has led the rest of the UK by setting a minimum standard of hospital food, and we expect our NHS boards to meet those standards.
“We are committed to boards meeting these unique standards and focusing on providing patients with meals that meet the desired quality requirements, rather than being driven purely by cost.”