Hospital food can be “delicious, nutritious and nicely presented”, Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith has declared after leading a review into meals for patients and staff.
Digital menus and upgraded kitchens providing a 24/7 service are among recommendations in an independent review published on Monday.
The review was launched following a deadly outbreak of listeriosis in hospitals last year linked to pre-packaged sandwiches and salads.
A panel of advisers, including chef Leith, have set out ways NHS trusts can prioritise food safety and provide more nutritious meals in hospitals.
The Government has said it will establish an expert group of NHS caterers, dietitians and nurses to decide on next steps.
Leith said: “The review provides best-in-class examples of how hospitals can serve delicious, nutritious and nicely presented meals on a budget.
“Food is not only important to health, but to morale. Hospital mealtimes should be a moment of enjoyment and a pleasure to serve. They should inspire staff, patients and visitors to eat well at home.”
Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon Restaurants and independent lead on the National Food Strategy, said hospitals must be a “guiding light” in efforts to “get to grips with the slow-motion disaster that is the British diet”.
Recommendations include upgraded kitchens which can cater for a wide range of needs from new mothers in a maternity ward, to patients hungry after a long fast due to surgery, and staff working overnight.
The review also said digital menus and food ordering systems taking into account a patient’s needs could improve communication between dietitians and caterers, reduce food waste and provide patients with the right food for recovery.
An agreed set of national professional standards for NHS chefs with mandatory professional development, including appropriate compulsory food hygiene and allergen training, was also recommended.
The report said increasing the role of nurses, dietitians, caterers and staff wellbeing leads in overseeing food services could help to ensure nutritious meals are part of a patient’s recovery plan.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This impressive report shows the way to good hospital food for all – patients, staff and visitors.
“Across the NHS and in the 40 new hospitals we are set to build I want to ensure – with Prue’s help – that we deliver really good hospital food.
“Alongside our new obesity strategy to improve the nation’s diet, the NHS is leading by example when it comes to public health.”
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Good food is key to good health, so every meal that patients get in hospital should be appetising and nutritious. It’s also right that the NHS continues to play its part in tackling the nation’s obesity crisis by supporting people to eat well.”
A 2018 staff survey showed that 58% of patients rated hospital food as very good or good, and 39% of hospital staff felt food and catering facilities offered in their workplaces were poor, the department of health said.