Campaigners have called on the Government to introduce mandatory standards for hospital food.

Hospital meals should have compulsory nutritional standards, said the Campaign for Better Hospital Food.

A new report by the group states that since 1992, governments have introduced 21 "failed" voluntary initiatives to improve hospital food, costing more than £54 million.

Presenter Loyd Grossman, who has previously advised the Government on hospital food standards, backed the campaign, saying that ministers should stop using voluntary initiatives.

Grossman said: "Serving fresh and nutritious hospital food is vital to improving patient health, and to raising morale - amongst NHS staff, patients and their families.

"There has not yet been a noticeable change in the way hospital food is produced, prepared, cooked and served. I welcome the publication of this report and hope that it prompts the Government to take a new and effective approach to improving hospital food, including by requiring it to meet mandatory standards."

Alex Jackson, co-ordinator at the Campaign for Better Hospital Food, added: "This report must serve as a lesson to Jeremy Hunt that simply publishing recommendations for the improvement of hospital food isn't good enough, as every one of his predecessors in the last 20 years has found out.

"It's time for the Government to take effective action by introducing mandatory standards for patient meals."

In October last year, Mr Hunt introduced a set of standards to ensure that patients receive nutritious and appetising food throughout their hospital stay. He said that food and drink should be available at all times of the day - not just meal times.

Patients should also have the choice from a varied menu - including meals suitable for religious needs, he said, while catering staff should also reduce the fat and salt content in food and introduce more fruit and vegetables.