Millions of NHS patients and staff will benefit from tastier, healthier and better-quality meals following an independent review of hospital food, led by a panel of advisers including chef and restaurateur Prue Leith.
Published today, the review makes recommendations on how NHS trusts can prioritise food safety and provide more nutritious meals to both staff and patients.
The government has today announced it will establish an expert group of NHS caterers, dieticians and nurses to take forward the recommendations made in the report and decide on next steps. These include:
- upgrading hospital kitchens so a 24/7 service can be provided to everyone; from a hot drink and a snack in the middle of the night to a hot meal for new mums in a maternity ward or for patients hungry after a long fast due to surgery, plus facilities for staff to store, prepare and eat food at any time during the day or night
- introducing digital menus and food ordering systems which can factor in a patient’s dietary and cultural requirements, and nutritional needs. This will improve communication between dietitians and caterers, reduce food waste and provide patients with the right food for recovery
- agreeing national professional standards for NHS chefs with mandatory professional development, including appropriate compulsory food hygiene and allergen training
- increase the role of nurses, dietitians, caterers and staff wellbeing leads in overseeing food services so that nutritious meals are part of a patient’s recovery plan
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said:
Restaurateur, celebrity chef and television presenter Prue Leith CBE, said:
Recruitment has now begun for the expert group led by the review’s chair, former head of the Hospital Caterers Association and catering lead for Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Philip Shelley.
Philip Shelley, chair of the hospital food review, said:
Philip Shelley and Prue Leith visited catering managers, staff and patients across the country, looking at best practice from those leading the way in NHS food quality and innovation. The findings of the hospital food review echo many of the themes in both the government’s recently published Obesity Strategy and part one of the National Food Strategy.
This includes the importance of healthy, nutritious and tasty food for physical health and wellbeing; how COVID-19 has highlighted the need to improve the nation’s dietary health; and the need to also focus on our culture around food, not just on the food itself.
High-quality hospital food can improve staff wellbeing and speed up patient recovery.
While 58% of patients rate hospital food as very good or good, 39% of hospital staff feel that food and catering facilities offered in their workplaces were poor. (Source: NHS England, 2018 National NHS Staff Survey in England, 2019.)
With over 140 million meals served to NHS patients every year, and a further 1.25 million members of staff that require nourishing food and drink on shift, the review highlights the importance of improving both patient and staff satisfaction even further.
Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon Restaurants and independent lead on the National Food Strategy, said:
Following an outbreak of listeriosis in 2019, the Health Secretary of State announced this ‘root and branch’ review of food served and sold in hospitals.
Today’s report makes recommendations for system level change, covering staff, nutrition and hydration, food safety, facilities, technology, sustainability and enforcing standards. The recommendations aim to ensure every NHS catering supplier, worker and contractor is meeting the highest standards to prevent foodborne infection and keep patients safe.
This includes training hospital workers, including ‘non-catering’ staff such as nurses, on food hygiene matters relevant to their work, and ensuring suppliers uphold Food Safety Association and Public Health England standards.
The review also contains a checklist for catering managers and chief executives with the key principles of providing a good food service.
Many of the recommendations can be implemented now, at no additional cost. The government also recently announced a £3.7 billion fund to deliver 40 hospitals across England by 2030 which will include a focus on 21st-century catering facilities including restaurants, central kitchens, patient dining spaces and ward kitchens.
Rob Percival, Head of Food Policy at the Soil Association, said:
Chief Executive, Rachel Power, The Patients Association, said: