Hospital penalised for big portions

WHEN a hospital gets the lowest possible score in a national league table for its food, you instantly have visions of horror stories with patients served cold, tasteless portions and given shabby service.

WHEN a hospital gets the lowest possible score in a national league table for its food, you instantly have visions of horror stories with patients served cold, tasteless portions and given shabby service.

But stringent inspectors evaluating the quality of catering at West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, chose a very different reason for marking food standards so low – the portions were too big.

Hospital chiefs have revealed they scored poorly for food in the health tables published on Wednesdaybecause of the quantity of their cabbage – while quality and presentation scored highly.

Steve Moore, director of facilities, said: "On the day the inspectors came, we were serving cabbage in a little cup and it was hard to get the portions level. They said the portions were too large and we were marked down on that.


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"I was personally disappointed with the table and I thought the marking was pretty harsh and subjective.

"Inspections are a fantastic idea and it is good to have an outside opinion of what we are serving. But we are very confident in the food we produce and our figures show that the vast majority of our patients are pleased with it."

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Patient Bill Cox, 82, from Brandon, agreed. "I have had no complaints about the food since I have been here. It always tastes good and I eat a lot of it. I would rather have too much than not enough," he said.

Catering at the hospital was drastically revamped last year with the introduction of new dishes under the watchful eye of former Masterchef presenter Loyd Grossman.

The hospital already has one of those dishes on the menu but missed out on higher marks because national guidelines dictate they should have two.

Mr Moore said the hospital would have had to fork out £15,000 to scrap the current menus and add another dish – but he said plans were afoot to add the extra meal next year.

He said: "It would cost £15,000 to print a whole new set of menus and we thought this money could be better spent elsewhere in the hospital.

The latest health league tables, published by the independent Healthcare Commission, rated every NHS health trust on its performance in 2003/04.

Though hospital food came under scrutiny, the West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust was ranked as the top performing hospital trust in East Anglia.

It was awarded a top-rated three stars for the second year running putting the trust in a strong position as it bids for foundation status.

Looking at the league tables, it would be easy to dismiss the food served at the West Suffolk as the traditional hospital fare, which has always had a bad name.

Never one to shirk a challenge, I boldly took a taste of what inspectors viewed as the lowest grade and found it was anything but.

My chicken curry, favoured I'm told by one pensioner creeping up to 100-years-old, was more tasty than tradition suggests and I, for one, will be calling for larger rather than less portions.

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