Hospitals in Birmingham are wasting 12 tonnes of food a week – with the equivalent of around 24,000 meals per week ending up in the bin.
Figures from NHS Digital show 12.1 tonnes worth of food was left on the serving trolley in a single week at the trusts covering the city in March this year.
If an average main meal is around 500g, that would mean around 24,100 meals a week are going to waste.
Unserved meals often occur when meals are ordered for patients who are then discharged or taken for treatment, or where extra meals have been prepared just in case a patient wants one.
The total was made up of 165kg of starters, 7.7 tonnes of main meals and 4.2 tonnes of desserts.
Heart of England had the highest levels of waste, with 9.7 tonnes of food left on trolleys at the trust’s hospitals in the week of monitoring.
The actual amount of food waste at the trust is likely to be even higher, as the figures don’t include any waste in the preparation of meals, waste in cafes and restaurants, or food that was given to patients and then not eaten.
Research by WRAP, a charity that works with businesses, individuals and communities to reduce waste and improve sustainability, suggests only 8% of food waste in hospitals may be due to unserved meals.
Trusts across Birmingham spent £15.7m on inpatient food services in 2017/18, and served up 4.6m main meals last year.
The average cost of feeding a patient for a day ranged from just £4.44 at Parkview Clinic to £10.87 at Good Hope Hospital.
NHS trusts across England were asked to measure the amount of unserved meals remaining on trolleys at the end of lunch and dinner meal services during the week beginning March 19, 2018.
The unserved starters, mains and desserts were collected and then weighed, with the totals over the week calculated.
Across England, more than 273 tonnes of food went unserved at NHS trusts in the week in March, including around 32 tonnes of starters, 179 tonnes of mains, and 63 tonnes of desserts.
WRAP’s advice for healthcare providers on how they can cut waste suggests reducing the amount of unserved meals by ensuring meal ordering forms are properly filled out, with support for patients who need help.
As well as putting in place confirmation of the number of meals needed just before service starts, they suggest making systems flexible – so patient meals can be transferred between wards if someone moves and cancels, or orders at short notice, with ‘just in case’ meal ordering discouraged.
The advice also suggests using unserved patients meals in the hospital restaurant.
Overall, NHS trusts spent £590m on inpatient food services in 2017/18, with 141m main meals requested last year.
Cost of meal services and food waste
Inpatient food service cost 2017/18 // Number of inpatient main meals requested 2017/18 // Cost of feeding one inpatient per day // Total unserved meals (kg) in one week
PARKVIEW CLINIC // BIRMINGHAM WOMEN’S AND CHILDREN’S NHS FOUNDATION TRUST // £106,282 // 23,634 // £4.44 // 44
BIRMINGHAM WOMEN’S HOSPITAL // BIRMINGHAM WOMEN’S AND CHILDREN’S NHS FOUNDATION TRUST // £632,935 // 116,460 // £5.23 // 193
BIRMINGHAM CHILDRENS HOSPITAL // BIRMINGHAM WOMEN’S AND CHILDREN’S NHS FOUNDATION TRUST // £341,239 // 163,275 // £8.40 // 64
BIRMINGHAM HEARTLANDS HOSPITAL // HEART OF ENGLAND NHS FOUNDATION TRUST // £3,177,738 // 1,036,767 // £9.19 // 9,706 (whole trust)
SOLIHULL HOSPITAL // HEART OF ENGLAND NHS FOUNDATION TRUST // £981,156 // 282,564 // £9.53 // 9,706 (whole trust)
GOOD HOPE HOSPITAL // HEART OF ENGLAND NHS FOUNDATION TRUST // £2,465,276 // 694,008 // £10.87 // 9,706 (whole trust)
THE ROYAL ORTHOPAEDIC HOSPITAL // ROYAL ORTHOPAEDIC HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST // £631,122 // 89,505 // £7.87 // 26
QUEEN ELIZABETH HOSPITAL BIRMINGHAM // UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL BIRMINGHAM NHS FOUNDATION TRUST // £4,063,028 // 1,237,508 // £6.56 // 729
SANDWELL GENERAL HOSPITAL // SANDWELL AND WEST BIRMINGHAM HOSPITALS NHS TRUST // £1,484,811 // 436,098 // £10.20 // 749
CITY HOSPITAL // SANDWELL AND WEST BIRMINGHAM HOSPITALS NHS TRUST // £1,459,738 // 428,734 // £10.20 // 450
ROWLEY REGIS HOSPITAL // SANDWELL AND WEST BIRMINGHAM HOSPITALS NHS TRUST // £274,237 // 80,545 // £10.20 // 87
LEOSOWES INTERMEDIATE CARE CENTRE // SANDWELL AND WEST BIRMINGHAM HOSPITALS NHS TRUST // £72,368 // 21,255 // £10.20 // 8
Source : BirminghamMail