Grant Woodward: Scandal of hospital slop truly shames our country

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Plus stink of double standards over Saudi and why Rhinos must win SPOTY.

LOOKING at the picture, you don’t know whether to laugh or hurl.

Dumped on the same plate – and starting to ooze together at the edges – are a rice-laden chicken curry and a sweet fruit crumble.

It looks like something a lazy student might be tempted to try in a desperate bid to save themselves on the washing up.

But this wasn’t dished up in a skanky student house – it was served to a patient at Jimmy’s.

A mix-up, says the hospital. Sorry. Won’t happen again.

Except the poor woman concerned says when she couldn’t bring herself to eat it (can’t think why) she was given a yogurt in its place, meaning she went without a proper meal until the next day.

How is it that we’ve been talking about the need to make hospital food better for donkey’s years and still nothing gets done?

Jamie Oliver, Lloyd Grossman and James Martin have all had a go, but the horror show of photos regularly posted by patients online shows none of it has worked.

When I visited my dad in hospital after a serious heart attack, I was pleased to find him in pretty good spirits.

His only gripe was that he was feeling a little peckish because he hadn’t eaten any of his lunch.

When I asked why not, he told me what he had been offered: steak and kidney pudding.

You don’t have to be a top consultant on a six-figure salary to realise that giving a man who has just suffered a heart attack a meal chock-full of salt and fat isn’t the best idea in the world.

But whoever was in charge of the meals either didn’t twig the implications or, more likely, simply didn’t care. And this was on a specialist heart ward.

It’s why I can well believe claims that hospital meals are of a worse standard than those served up to lags languishing in the nation’s jails.

A year ago, the Campaign for Better Hospital Food finally managed to get the Government to extend the minimum food standards that apply to prisons, schools and civil service canteens to the NHS.

But despite this progress the standards that apply to hospital food are still hopelessly weak, are not being properly monitored or are often simply ignored.

Just take a look at the photos of meals patients have sent to their website – www.sustainweb.org/hospitalfood – and see for yourself.

A survey by the campaign found three in four hospital meals would qualify for a red light under the Food Standards Agency’s traffic light model because they are too high in saturated fat. Fifteen out of 25 meals tested contained more salt than a McDonald’s Big Mac.

It’s why we’ve got the shameful situation of young people with cystic fibrosis, whose survival depends on getting the right diet, having to be taken out of hospital by their parents to eat in local pubs and restaurants.

It’s why exhausted new mums who are breastfeeding go 14 hours between meals.

It’s why 400,000 uneaten hospital meals are thrown in the bin every day and two-thirds of hospital staff say they wouldn’t be happy eating the food they serve to patients.

The root cause of this problem lies not only in the criminal lack of funding for hospital meals but also the fact many hospitals no longer have kitchens on site and instead rely on outsourced caterers to provide airline-style ready meals which are then reheated.

So the next time you’re in hospital and wonder why your brussels sprouts are brown and the macaroni cheese could double as wallpaper paste, there’s your answer.

Our local hospitals are packed to the gills with elderly patients who have spent entire lifetimes dutifully paying their taxes.

Now they see these payments being swallowed up by providing hearty, nutritious meals for prisoners, while they’re left to endure the unhealthy slop served up on the wards.

It’s a situation that shames this country.

Saudi double standards stink

IF expat pensioner Karl Andree was facing 350 lashes for possessing alcohol in Iran we’d be on the brink of World War Three right now.

But because the 74-year-old is at risk of getting a whipping in Saudi Arabia, the Government doesn’t want to know.

There are billions of reasons for this. The billions of pounds that our relationship with the Saudis generates in trade and arms sales every year.

Despite Karl’s family making repeated pleas to officials to get involved, it was only when his ordeal hit the headlines this week that David Cameron bothered to lift a finger.

The result? A letter to Saudi leader King Salman to express his concern at the pensioner’s sentence for being found with bottles of wine in his car.

I bet Salman’s quaking in his boots.

It turns out we have Michael Gove to thank (no, I never thought I’d be writing that sentence either) for pulling the plug on a training contract for Saudi prisons – which by the way still use floggings, amputations and beheadings.

But even this saw Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warn that the move could hurt UK-Saudi relations.

This is a country that flogs elderly women for spending time with males who aren’t close relatives and hands 200 lashes to a 19-year-old girl whose ‘crime’ was to be gang-raped by seven men.

How pathetic that Britain continues to suck up to a country that not only treats its own people appallingly, but now ours as well.

Rhinos deserve SPOTY honour

WHAT a send-off for Rhinos legends (Sir) Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai at the weekend.

Achieving the treble was a herculean achievement – especially given the way their regular season tailed off as the players tired from their packed schedule.

It just proves the old saying that form is temporary but class is permanent.

But what really saw the Rhinos home was the self-belief that comes from having won five Grand Finals in seven years. Now it’s six in eight.

Rugby league doesn’t get the profile it deserves on account of being seen as a “northern sport”.

But the courage, skill and commitment of the Rhinos put their cross-code rivals in the England rugby union team to shame.

If they don’t get the team of the year award at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year I’m going to start refusing to pay my licence in protest.

Feel free to join me.