Today, a freedom of information request by The Countryside Alliance Foundation reveals that British food is not ranked highly on the procurement agenda of NHS Trusts. The Countryside Alliance Foundation raise the point that buying British food would inevitably improve the quality of the food recovering patients consume, while helping pump money back into the local economy; especially hard-pressed farmers in Britain, and also reduce the environmental damage caused by importing low cost produce from foreign countries.

The Foundation is urging the Coalition government to establish a minimum British food buying standards policy for the NHS, comparable to the policy introduced for the civil service earlier in 2011.

The authors found that:

  • Only 14% of NHS Trusts (37 out of 262) know where the food they serve to patients originates from
  • On average, out of the 37 NHS Trusts that documented where they source food for hospitals, 60% was British in 2008-2009, which increased to 62% in 2009-2010
  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust pioneered a local food procurement program 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
  • According to a poll by YouGov, 60% of individuals in Britain believe that hospitals should buy British meat or meat products, even if it is more expensive

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

“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, produces and taxpayers are getting the best possible deal from the NHS.”

Today, report released by The Countryside Alliance Foundation – the charitable arm of the Countryside Alliance, the voice of rural Britain – has revealed just how much NHS Trusts in Britain are actually investing in local produce, as well as the demand from the general public in regards to calling for more public sector investment in British producers.

Due to Strict regulations by the government, farmers in Britain produce food to some of the highest nutritional, hygiene and welfare standards in the world. Even though the government has imposed these high standards in order to enhance the quality of food in Britain, The Countryside Alliance Foundations believes not enough concerted effort is being made to ensure a good percentage of the one billion pounds of taxpayers money spent in the public sector each year is allocated to purchasing high quality British food.

Currently, NHS Trusts are not obligated to prioritize the purchasing of British food, and only 14% of NHS Trusts were able to provide The Countryside Alliance Foundation with the origins of the food they serve to patients.

According to the Foundation, a procurement program in the NHS that focuses on purchasing British food will place considerable development right at the heart of food procurement; providing higher quality food to hospital patients, improved service to patients, as well as benefiting the local economy and greater environmental sustainability. In addition, this can be achieved within the constraints of public sector procurement rules and tight budgets.

For example, as of 2001 the National Health Service in Cornwall has developed The Cornwall Food Program, which provides three hospitals in the Royal Cornwall Trust with increasing amounts of fresh, locally produced and organic food to patients, visitors and staff. Overall the changes have been made without adding additional costs. In 2004 it was estimated that direct spending of £1,131,000 with suppliers from Cornwall generated the local economy an additional spending of £910,624. In addition, indicative figures estimated that by sourcing food more locally carbon emissions were reduced by 70%.

Written by Grace Rattue