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Government announces remit of hospital food review

Hancock pledged to overhaul provision following the listeria deaths linked to pre-packed hospital sandwiches earlier this summer

Caroline White

Friday, 23 August 2019

The government has announced the remit of its review of hospital food, which health and social care secretary Matt Hancock pledged to commission following the listeria deaths linked to pre-packed hospital sandwiches earlier this summer.

The review is intended to improve public confidence in hospital food by setting out clear ambitions for delivering high-quality food to patients and the public.


Every year, the NHS serves more than 140 million meals to patients across the country, but the quality and nutritional value of these meals can vary substantially.

The review intends to look at how food can help speed up recovery, taking into account the unique needs of vulnerable groups, and how the number of hospitals with their own kitchens and chefs can be increased.

It will look at: sourcing food services locally and reducing reliance on frozen or packaged foods; new systems to monitor food safety and quality more transparently, including looking at how NHS boards are held to account; how the NHS can be a standard-bearer for healthier choices for patients, staff and visitors; the sustainability and environmental impact of the whole supply chain; ensuring quality and value for money.

Alongside this, new national standards for healthcare food for patients, staff and visitors will be developed by NHS England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England (PHE). The new standards will reflect government nutrition advice, as outlined in PHE’s Eatwell guide.

Restaurateur and celebrity chef Prue Leith will act as an adviser to the review, drawing on her experience working in catering, high-quality restaurants and as a former chair of the School Food Trust.

Leith, who has previously spoken out on the need for hospitals to provide healthy options that aid recovery, is one of a long line of chefs brought in to advise the government on hospital food provision.

Chair of the Hospital Food Review, Phil Shelley, will meet with catering managers at trusts across the country, looking at best practice from those leading the way in food quality and innovation.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “We all know how important the food we eat is to our health. We have a duty to ensure this same level of attention is given to the food served to patients in hospital, or our brilliant NHS staff working tirelessly for patients – and
indeed to visitors.”

He added: “When people are in hospital, they should be given all the help they can to get better – and that includes food. I have seen first-hand how using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and cooking from scratch have improved the quality of their meals and I want to help more hospitals follow suit by sharing what works best across the country.”


Responding to the announcement, British Medical Association (BMA) board of science chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, welcomed the commitment to improve hospital food.

“Much of the food provided in healthcare settings across the country falls short of what should be acceptable,” she said.

A recent BMA survey of doctors working in hospitals highlighted the inconsistent and often poor provision of food for staff, with most doctors agreeing that the food provided for patients didn’t promote a healthy balanced diet

“Given that the NHS functions as a 24-hour service, it is also worrying that almost two-thirds of the doctors surveyed revealed that the only food available to them working on night shifts was from vending machines, with the majority saying the choice was unhealthy,” she added.

“Improving hospital food is a win-win situation and it only makes sense that in an environment that is so geared towards promoting and improving health, the food provided should be healthy, sustainable and high quality.”

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