WASTED meals are costing Sunderland’s hospitals more than £50,000 annually, the Echo can reveal.
Hospital chiefs say that binned food costs the trust £148.75 per day, working out at just under £54,300 a year.
On an average day, 125 meals a day go uneaten by patients on wards.
In effect, each meal time the trust is losing almost £50.
Some wards at certain times do not waste food as second helpings are often served.
Hospital bosses said efforts are being made to reduce the amount wasted.
A spokesman said: “In a service which provides a huge range of meals to hundreds of patients every day, it is inevitable that there will be some waste, but we go to considerable efforts to ensure that it is kept to an absolute minimum.”
Glenn Turp, regional director of the Royal College Nursing, said: “We have spoken to City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust about this issue, and they have assured us that they have made huge progress in reducing waste, while improving quality of the food provided, over the last few years.
“They are particularly committed to delivering a choice of high-quality meals to patients, and that inevitably means that there will be a small amount of waste every day.
“The fact that patient nutritional intake is a key priority of the trust should be welcomed.
“Ensuring that all patients receive good nutritional intake while in hospital is a duty of every trust.
“If a patient needs help in eating their meals or consuming drinks, then the nurse or healthcare professional caring for them should provide this support.
“Inevitably, however, there will be occasions where a patient will not feel well enough to eat a full meal, and nutritional supplements may be used instead. On those occasions, inevitably a small number of meals may be wasted.
“Daily variations in ward occupancy levels also mean that it is sometimes difficult to plan exactly how many meals will be required.
“However, we would expect catering management to share best practice between hospitals and trusts, so that patient nutrition is put first, while also ensuring, in these economically challenging times, that wastage is kept to a minimum.
“It is good to hear that City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is committed to nutritional quality.”
Ann Clay, Unison representative for the Royal, said: “I’m surprised that that many meals are thrown away, as I know that once patients have been in hospital for more than one day, they can choose what meals they want to have.
“I’d imagine most of the meals which aren’t touched are the ones given to patients who are on their first day in the hospital.”