SCOTTISH hospitals threw away more than 590 untouched or partially eaten meals each day last year with costs spiralling over £1 million, figures have revealed.
An investigation by Scotland on Sunday found that more than 215,300 meals were binned in 2014/15, with the full figure likely to be much higher as some health boards were unable to provide figures for their privately run catering services.
The worst offender was NHS Lothian – Scotland’s second largest health board – where 74,000 meals were wasted, racking up an annual bill in excess of £504,000.
Health chiefs argued that some meals were wasted due to patients deteriorating, being discharged or their treatment affecting their choice of food.
Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw branded the figures as “an inexcusable waste of public money” last night, as patient campaigners questioned whether the quality of food served was affecting levels of waste.
Carlaw added: “Inevitably some meals will not be consumed, but this will surely be less likely to start with if they are both appealing and beneficial in the first place. These new figures add injury to a hospital food farce which has gone on for too long. Disgusting doesn’t cover it.”
NHS Scotland spent around £87m on catering services during 2014-15, which equates to £87 per patient each week, according to government figures.
Dr Jean Turner, patron of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “I have visited friends in hospitals before and heard from patients who agreed sometimes it is hard to tell what you are getting – whether it was mushroom stew or a beef stew or whatever. It’s hardly appealing.
“Food and drink are some of the most important parts of the recovery process. We are all paying for it and the private companies are getting something out of it whereas patients are losing out.”
Her concerns were echoed by the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, which has fought for better provision in England and Wales.
Co-ordinator Katherine Button said: “With the right food served at the right time for patients, and assistance given to patients who need help to eat, hospitals will waste less food and have more money to spend on higher quality ingredients.”
It is up to health boards to minimise waste but there is a catering information system in place to monitor wastage and stock levels, said a Scottish Government spokesperson.
The spokesperson added: “Hospitals will always experience some food waste due to patients being too ill to eat a meal they have ordered, or having to go for tests and operations which mean they cannot eat a meal.”