More than 6,500 tonnes of food thrown away by NHS trusts in 2021

More than 6,500 tonnes of food was thrown away by NHS trusts over the past year, data show, as Prue Leith warned “there is still a mountain to climb” when it comes to food waste.

The binned meals cost the health service around £1.1 million for the 2020/21 financial year, according to official NHS figures.

But the number is expected to be far higher this year after new data show more than 1,100 tonnes has been wasted so far in just 38 of the 217 NHS Trusts which responded to freedom of information requests.

Leith, the Great British Bake Off judge, chef and restaurateur, led a review into hospital food last year which found waste is likely to be far higher than official figures suggest because there is no official mandate for trusts to measure plate waste.

“The acceptance by Government of the recommendations of The Hospital Food Strategy (to which I was the advisor), was an excellent start, but progress, due to Covid and other NHS problems, has been slower than we’d like,” Leith told The Telegraph.

“Food waste affects costs, patient nutrition and the planet, and we know we can do better.”

Prue Leith warned 'there is still a mountain to climb' when it comes to food waste

Credit: Andrew Crowley

She called on the Government to implement an up-to-date food and drink strategy which specifically targets food waste.

All trusts are required to implement such a strategy, as set out by a previous hospital food review in 2014, but six years on there is still no mechanism in place to check trusts are complying.

‘Food waste is an issue for patient health’

The Soil Association, a food campaign charity which took part in the 2020 review, has called for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to be given powers to check that NHS Trusts are sticking to the standards and tackling food waste.

Rob Percival, Head of Policy, said these latest food waste figures should be a “wake up call” to the Government and remind them that the issues raised in the food review a year ago “are still very much alive”.

“Food waste is an issue for patient health, NHS economics and the climate,” he said.

“We need food standards in law and a legislative commitment to some sort of mechanism for monitoring compliance with mandatory requirements.

“The CQC should be given a formal role to oversee not only compliance with standards but the delivery of this food and drink strategy, which all NHS Trusts are required to develop, which should include all this work on food waste.”

Data obtained by this newspaper show 1,146 tonnes of food waste has been thrown away so far in 2021/22, at a cost of more than £655,000.

Top ten NHS trusts which threw away the most food waste this year

The trusts with some of the highest waste figures are Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Food waste at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh has increased from 15.33 tonnes in 2019/20 to 88.53 tonnes in 2021/22, so far, but the trust said it only held data for one site in 2019/20 which disposed of food waste via anaerobic digestion.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust binned 86.31 tonnes of food in 2021/22 compared to 161.87 tonnes in the previous year. It said it was developing a “Green Plan” which will include food monitoring in a bid to cut waste.

United Lincolnshire’s food waste has increased from 69.1 tonnes in 2020/21 to 78.53 in 2021/22 across its two sites. It said during 2020/21, the process for disposing and recording food waste at the trust was changed to “more accurately calculate waste”.

Many trusts said they could not provide the data because food waste was not monitored or annually recorded, and neither was its cost.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said: “We as a trust don’t have a system in place to measure this. All waste goes to landfill.”

The 2020 Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food recommended all hospitals should install a digital meal ordering system by 2022 in a bid to cut food waste.

Of the 38 trusts that responded to our requests with data, only 15 have installed a digital system so far.

An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS is committed to improving the quality and choice of patient and staff food and beverage services. 

"Whilst the waste highlighted represents a large number, it isn’t out of line with other sectors and through our food programme and food standards work, we are focusing heavily on waste and net zero initiatives that will make a real difference.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *