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Government confirms review of hospital food following listeria outbreak

[Story updated 23.8.19 at 13.30]

The government has confirmed a review into hospital food, following the deaths of six people linked to an outbreak of listeria in contaminated food earlier this year. The review will see the government working with the NHS to improve food quality in hospitals and provide consistently safe, nutritious and tasty food. It also aims to improve public confidence in hospital food by setting out clear ambitions for delivering high-quality food to patients and the public.


Phil Shelley, (HEFMA member, Facilities Manager at Taunton & Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and a former National Chair of the Hospital Caterers Association) has been announced as Chair of the Hospital Food Review. Phil will meet with catering managers at Trusts across the country, looking at best practice from those leading the way in food quality and innovation.


Phil told HEFMA he feels privileged to be involved with such an important challenge for hospital food. He says: “Having been asked to chair the NHS Food Review by Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, it rightly recognises the importance of leadership from within the NHS.


“Nutrition and Hydration for our patients, staff and visitors can often be a complex process and this review will outline recommendations that all food served in hospital must be ‘safe, healthy and nutritious’. Good food empowers patient recovery and all teams involved in its planning, preparation and presentation must have the patient at the centre of their focus. 


“The review board will include a number of associations and organisations alongside those colleagues working on the frontline to ensure that our aims are realistic but innovative.”


The review will look at how to increase the number of hospitals with their own kitchens and who have their own chefs.


The review will consider:

• How food can help aid faster recovery, taking into account the unique needs of vulnerable groups

• Support from national bodies such as the Soil Association and Hospital Caterers Association to source food services locally and reduce 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

• More healthy food options for NHS staff, particularly for those working overnight shifts

• Sustainability and environmental impact of the whole supply chain

• Ensuring quality and value for the taxpayer


Restaurateur and celebrity chef Prue Leith CBE 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. She has previously spoken out on the need for hospitals to provide healthy options that aid recovery and for meals to be tailored to the individual needs of the patient.


Alongside this review, NHS England / NHS Improvement and Public Health England (PHE) will still release new national standards for healthcare food for patients, staff and visitors. These new standards will reflect government nutrition advice, as outlined in PHE’s Eatwell guide. 


Prime Minister Boris Johnson says: “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.”


Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock adds: “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. 


“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.”