Prue Leith advises review into ‘unpalatable’ hospital food after listeria deaths
Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith is to advise a Government review into hospital food following the deaths of six people due to a listeria outbreak.
A “root and branch” review launched by the Department of Health and Social Care on Friday will examine whether the number of hospitals catering in-house can be increased.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for the comprehensive review in June after six people died after contracting listeria from pre-packaged sandwiches and salads either purchased on site or given out by hospital staff.
The review will also consider whether kitchen facilities can be changed to bring more chefs into hospitals as well as using less frozen food and sourcing local fresh produce where possible.
Celebrity cook Leith has previously criticised the current standard of hospital meals and called for NHS trusts to make appealing and nutritious food on-site for patients.
She said: “Millions of pounds are wasted in hospitals with food ending up in the bin, unpalatable food being the main complaint.
“I’m delighted that, at long last, Downing Street and the Department of Health have decided to do something about it.
“A hospital meal should be a small highlight, a little pleasure and comfort, and it should help, not hinder, the patient’s recovery.”
The review will examine the quality of the estimated 140 million meals provided to patients each year, as well as staff meals.
The review was announced as a former health chief blamed “systematic failures” in public health for 17 deaths linked to separate outbreaks of listeria and streptococcus earlier this year.
In July, NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group confirmed 13 people had died in an outbreak of invasive Group A streptococcus.
Writing in the Journal Of The Royal Society Of Medicine on Friday, Professor John Ashton, former north-west regional director of public health, warned that years of austerity and cuts to local authority budgets had stripped the ability of environmental health departments to keep up with threats.
The review has been welcomed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
He said: “Since entering Downing Street, my focus has been clear – to make sure our world-class NHS has everything it needs to continue providing the very best frontline care.
“Guaranteeing hospitals serve nutritional, tasty and fresh meals will not only aid patient recovery, but also fuel staff and visitors as they care for loved ones and the vulnerable.
“Our NHS has led the way since the day it was formed. This review will ensure it remains the standard-bearer for healthy choices, as it works unstintingly to improve the nation’s well-being.”
Mr Hancock said: “When people are in hospital, they should be given all the help they can to get better – and that includes food.
“So I’m determined patients enjoy the best, most delicious and nutritious food to help them recover and leave hospital as quickly as possible. I’m delighted we’ve assembled a first-rate group to drive this agenda.”
The review will be chaired by the former head of the Hospital Caterers Association and catering lead for Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Philip Shelley.
Hospital caterers, patient groups and kitchen staff will also be involved in the review.
Royal College of Nursing England director Patricia Marquis said: ” Ensuring patients and staff have access to healthy, nutritious food in hospital is essential but you don’t need a celebrity chef to tell you hospital food needs an overhaul.”
She added: “Our expectations for this review go beyond half-baked schemes no matter how noble. This won’t make a lasting impact without a full-scale investment in the health and care system.
“If the Health Secretary’s prepared to review hospital food, when can nurses expect a full review of safe staffing including the need for legislation?”