County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust will introduce the charges at its three main hospitals.Read the full story ›
9,000 more people accessed urgent and emergency care services between January and March 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.Read the full story ›
It's a bold new move to try to improve the standard of food in our hospitals.
As part of a national campaign to raise the quality of meals, the government has said hospitals will have to meet set requirements to provide healthy and nutritious meals for patients.
Dan Ashby reports:
Want to see how your local hospital's food standards have rated compared to the rest of the UK?
The NHS has published an interactive map from a report on the quality of food in the nation's hospitals.
The map shows how hospitals have performed according to food indicators. NHS officials said that the food ratings systems was set up to give patients the "widest possible range of information".
The Government is enforcing new minimum standards for hospital meals after what campaigners say has been years of soggy and unhealthy dishes.
Patients will be "screened" on arrival over their nutritional needs and offered a better selection of well-cooked meals.
The Government wants to see freshly prepared and healthier meals, which is why they brought in these minimum standards.
Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead already prepares 1,400 meals a day for their patients, which is what the Government want to see more of, as well as meals like fish served twice a week and less salt in potatoes and rice.
Ian Stafford, at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, says they welcome the new higher standards.
It is claimed by www.hospitalfood.org.uk that these photos are examples of the types of meals being served in the country's hospitals. ITV News Tyne Tees is not able to independently verify them.
We'd like to hear your views on this issue. Contact us on Twitter @ITVTyneTees or on Facebook facebook.com/tynetees
Viewers have expressed mixed reactions over the state of food in the nation's NHS hospitals - ranging from outrage to disbelief of criticism over Britain's healthcare system.
Yes we pay taxes...it's food...don't like it don't eat it! There are thousands of people all over the world who are suffering without food for days and people still moan! It's not a 5 star restaurant!
I used to serve food up on the wards. Food looks fine, yet as soon as it's put in the heating trolley it goes all sloppy. Also the lack of help with giving out the food to patients mean that on big wards even the heating trolley doesn't keep food warm for all the patients.
While in hospital once, I stated I was vegetarian. For lunch I received a beef salad. I explained to the staff member handing out meals that I was vegetarian and asked if I could possibly have something without meat, and after being tutted and sighed at, was presented with a chicken salad and told to 'pick the salad from around the meat'.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says new guidelines are designed to ensure high food standards are upheld in hospitals across the NHS.
He said that while the "majority" of NHS patients felt the food was "good or very good", healthier, more nutritious foods would help people recover more quickly when in care.
Sweeping changes to the standards of hospital food "are about good nutrition" to ensure patients have the best chance at a full recovery, a charity has told Good Morning Britain.
Ruth Isden said patients did not expect hospitals to be "five star restaurants" and good quality food "was a really important of their care".
Rankings of hospital care according to the quality of the food they serve will help improve the transparency of the NHS, the Health Secretary has said.
Speaking as the Department of Health launched a crackdown on hospital food, Jeremy Hunt said:
We are making the NHS more transparent, giving patients the power to compare food on wards and incentivising hospitals to raise their game.
Many hospitals are already offering excellent food to their patients and staff. But we want to know that all patients have nourishing and appetising food to help them get well faster and stay healthy, which is why we're introducing tough new mandatory standards for the first time ever.