PATIENTS are facing a postcode lottery in terms of how much money is spent by hospitals on their food.

Research shows the average weekly spend can vary by up to a third across health boards.

There is a noticeable gulf between the country’s two largest health boards with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spending an average of £76 per patient per week compared to NHS Lothian’s £102.

And in island health boards the gap is greater still, with NHS Shetland patients receiving £230 a week worth of food and drink and Orkney patients just £139.

The importance of hospital food quality and nutrition has been repeatedly raised, with experts saying it is key to helping patients make a good recovery.

Scottish Conservative health education spokesman Brian Whittle said the disparity across Scotland was of concern.

Mr Whittle, a campaigner on hospital food, said: “It’s absolutely vital that hospital food is healthy, of good quality and appetising.

“If we can’t look to our NHS to do that, who can we expect to lead the way on this?

“The disparity in spending between health boards is extremely concerning.”

Mr Whittle said island health boards would be expected to have a far higher spend because of transportation costs, but it was “unclear” why patients in Glasgow received nearly £30 less per head every week than those in Edinburgh.

He added: “Good, nutritious food is absolutely key to patients making a strong recovery from whatever ailment they’re suffering from.

“But this data clearly points to a lower quality of meal in some parts of the country, and the Scottish Government needs to intervene to ensure there is more quality across the board.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the Scottish Government had led the rest of the UK by setting a minimum standard of hospital food.

She added: “We are committed to boards meeting these unique standards and focusing on providing patients with meals that meet the desired quality requirements, rather than being driven purely by cost.”

Scotland was the first country in the UK to develop a document specifying catering guidelines and nutrition standards for food in hospitals.

In 2016 NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said patients would be offered a “healthy option” every mealtime. The overhaul at Scotland’s largest health board came after criticism which compared some of the food being dished out to patients to the “worst of school meals”.

In 2014, restaurateur David Maguire dubbed the meals served up in NHS Greater Glasgow as a “pastiche of food” after reviewing the facilities.

Herald columnist Anne Johnstone also campaigned for better food after her own experiences being treated for leukaemia.