Call for CQC inspectors to have wider remit over hospital food standards


Published on Monday, (October 26), one of the key recommendations from the Hospital Food Review concerns monitoring and ensuring compliance with hospital food and drink standards, with the proposal that the scope of CQC inspections should be extended.

The review expressed concerns that even though hospital food standards are included in the NHS standard contract and as such are compulsory for all NHS hospitals, not all hospitals are compliant. Furthermore, current monitoring processes have become a ‘tick box’ exercise for some Trusts and therefore do not reflect reality.

A similar concern exists over the retail operations where outlets are required to comply with the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF). There exists a level of non-compliance that must be addressed with a new approach as the current incentives and penalties for compliance and non-compliance are not working.

As well as enshrining the hospital food standards in law, in much the same way as has been done in the education sector with the school food standards, it is recommended that food is included in standard Care Quality Commission (CQC) assessments in a much broader scope than it is currently.

The review states: “The CQC must have an enhanced role in relation to compliance with these standards. Inspectors should be supported more by dietitians and soft facilities management experts to assess compliance and there must then be plans put in place to support struggling Trusts.”

The review wants to see the existing focus shift to take more consideration of malnutrition, not just healthy diets. It lists five aspects where guidance to inspectors could require them to go further, but offers to work with the Commission to provide full guidance.

It is anticipated that the impact of this move would be significant as CQC guidance is observed from the highest level of Trusts as a way of maintaining readiness to be inspected.

Professor Ted Baker, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, tells HEFMA: “We welcome the commitment to establish NHS food and drink standards to ensure that staff, patients and visitors are able to eat well when in the hospital environment. Once we have seen the detail of the proposed standards we will be able to comment further on our potential role alongside other system partners, in monitoring and enforcing compliance with those standards.”

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