Opinion Former Article

Countryside Alliance: Only one in ten hospitals know where the food they serve their patients has come from

New Freedom of Information requests reveal just 14 per cent of NHS Trusts track the origins of the food they buy for hospital kitchens

Polling by YouGov shows that the public overwhelmingly support hospitals investing in British produce regardless of price

A new freedom of information request by The Countryside Alliance Foundation can today reveal that NHS Trusts are not placing British food high enough on the procurement agenda. We argue that buying British would improve the quality of food being provided to recovering patients, reduce the environmental damage from importing cheap foreign produce, and put money back into the local economy – in particular to hard-pressed British farmers. The Countryside Alliance Foundation is calling on the Coalition Government to introduce a minimum British food buying standards policy for the NHS, similar to that initiated for the civil service earlier this year.

Key findings:

37 out of 262 NHS Trusts know where the food they purchase for patients comes from. This equates to just 14 per cent of NHS Trusts who know the origins of the food they are serving to patients.

On average, of the 37 NHS Trusts that record where they source food for hospitals, 60 per cent was British in 2008-09. This increased to 62 per cent in 2009-10.

Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust pioneered a local food procurement programme and estimated in 2004 that direct spending of £1,131,000 with Cornish suppliers had generated additional spending of £910,624 in the local economy

Polling by YouGov reveals that 60 per cent of the British people think that hospitals should buy British meat or meat products, even it if costs more.

Alice Barnard, Chief Executive of The Countryside Alliance Foundation, said:

“Although the current economic conditions are making life difficult for hospitals, the importance of buying high-quality British food should not be overlooked. Evidence has shown that investing in local produce means investing in higher quality food for patients, which in turn improves their recovery, and puts a little back into the local economy. The Countryside Alliance Foundation would like to see the Government buying standards extended to hospitals, to ensure patients, producers and taxpayers are getting the best possible deal from the NHS.”

+++ The full report ‘Encouraging Hospitals to Buy British’ is attached to this email (with full break-downs by NHS Trust) or available by emailing press-office@countryside-alliance.org +++

New research released by The Countryside Alliance Foundation – the charitable arm of the Countryside Alliance, the voice of rural Britain – has today revealed the extent to which NHS Trusts in Britain are investing in local produce, and the demand from the general public for greater public sector investment in British producers.

Strict government regulations mean that British farmers produce food to some of the highest hygiene, nutritional and welfare standards in the world. Despite the Government imposing these high standards to improve the quality of British food, The Countryside Alliance Foundation believes there is not enough of a concerted effort to ensure a good-sized proportion of the one billion pounds of taxpayer money spent in the public sector each year goes on buying high quality British food.

At present, NHS Trusts are not required to prioritise the purchasing of British food and only 14 per cent of Trusts asked were able to provide us with the origins of the meals they serve to patients. The Countryside Alliance Foundation believes that a procurement programme in the NHS that focuses on buying British food will place sustainable development right at the heart of food procurement; providing better quality hospital food, improved service to patients, benefits to the local economy and greater environmental sustainability. This can also all be achieved within the constraints of public sector procurement rules and tight budgets.

As an example, since 2001 the National Health Service in Cornwall has pioneered The Cornwall Food Programme, serving increasing amounts of fresh, locally produced and organic food to patients, visitors and staff at three hospitals in the Royal Cornwall Trust. Overall the changes to contracts have been made without adding to costs. It was estimated in 2004 that direct spending of £1,131,000 with Cornish suppliers had generated additional spending of £910,624 in the local economy. Furthermore indicative figures estimated that by sourcing food more locally there had been a 70 per cent reduction in carbon emissions.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. The full report ‘Encouraging Hospitals to Buy British’ is attached to this email or available by emailing press-office@countryside-alliance.org

2. Methodology

A freedom of information request was sent to all NHS Trusts in the UK. The request asked for the amount of British food procured in financial years 2008-09 and 2009-10 and the total amount of money spent on food procurement in the same financial years. 262 NHS Trusts out of 327 provided a response to the request, which mean the response rate was 80 per cent.

3. YouGov polling

Polling figures are from YouGov Plc (full break-down of poll available in the report or by clicking here). Total sample size was 2,799 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th-12th May 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

4. About the Countryside Alliance

With over 100,000 members the Countryside Alliance defends and promotes country sports and rural life at Parliament, in the media and on the ground.

The Countryside Alliance believes a vibrant countryside needs five key changes and calls on the Government to:

SERVICES – Ensure an accessible and reliable rural transport and broadband network
HOUSING – Promote local solutions to the lack of affordable rural housing
EDUCATION – Enable all children to gain a practical understanding of the countryside
FARMING – Support British farmers and producers
COUNTRY PURSUITS – Repeal the Hunting Act and champion country pursuits

For more information or to arrange interviews please call the Countryside Alliance press office on 0207 840 9220 or 07500 834 163 

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