Hospital food Review Launched

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Craig Smith

Craig Smith Chairman, Hospital Caterers Association

The Hospital Caterers Association is delighted to welcome today’s launch of the government hospital food review. Our warmest congratulations go out to Phil Shelley, former chair of the Hospital Caterer’s Association, who has been tasked with chairing this critical review. Phil has an unparalleled expertise, dedication and experience in healthcare catering. The HCA fully endorses his appointment and will support him in every way we can.

Nutrition and food safety must be at the core of everything we do. The review will seek to establish new national quality standards for the food served within the NHS. We anticipate that the review will consider all aspects of delivering a quality dining experience to patients and staff alike, including a full review of the external supply chain and audit processes.

Craig Smith
Chairman, Hospital Caterers Association


Healthier meals on the menu for patients and staff as hospital food review launched

  • Government launches a root-and-branch review into hospital meals – backed by celebrity chef and restauranteur Prue Leith CBE
  • Focus on driving up quality to make hospital food healthier and more sustainable
  • Review will establish new national quality standards for the food served to staff, patients and visitors

Patients and hardworking NHS staff are set to enjoy healthier, tastier meals and greater choice thanks to a review into the quality of hospital food launched by government today.

Every year, the NHS serves more than 140 million meals to patients across the country. However, with quality varying throughout the NHS, the review will establish new national quality standards for the food served to staff, patients and visitors.

The review will look at whether we can increase the number of hospitals catering in-house and whether changes to NHS kitchen facilities are needed to reduce reliance on outsourced catering and increase the number of hospitals who have their own chefs.

It will also consider how Trusts could use less frozen food, make greater use of seasonal, fresh produce and source locally where appropriate. NHS staff will also benefit, with the review considering how to give them greater choice while on shift, particularly for those working overnight.

Restaurateur and celebrity chef Prue Leith CBE will act as an advisor to the review, drawing on her experience working in high-quality restaurants and as a former Chair of the School Food Trust. Leith has previously spoken out on the need for hospitals to provide healthy, nourishing and filling options which aid recovery and for meals to be tailored to the individual needs of the patient.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson 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.”

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.

“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.”

Restaurateur, celebrity chef and television presenter Prue Leith CBE 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.”

Matt Hancock has appointed former head of the Hospital Caterers Association and catering lead for Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Philip Shelley, to chair the review, which will draw on the expertise of hospital caterers, patient groups, suppliers and kitchen staff across the country.

Philip Shelley, Chair of the Hospital Food Review said:

“I am privileged to be asked to lead the root and branch review of hospital food; this is an opportunity for positive change and to address current issues as we drive the safety of food and progressive standards for our patients.

“It is vital that we use the evidence from excellent case studies around the country that prove what a difference food can make in empowering patient recovery.”

The review follows the tragic deaths of six people linked to an outbreak of listeria in contaminated food earlier this year. It aims to improve public confidence in hospital food by setting out clear ambitions for delivering the high-quality food patients and the public have a right to expect.

It will consider:

  • How food can help aid faster recovery, taking into account the unique needs of vulnerable groups, to ensure patient meals provide the right nutritional value;
  • How national bodies such as the Soil Association and National Caterers Association can support the NHS to provide 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, as part of improving the nation’s public health;
  • How we can support dedicated NHS staff by giving them more choice and making more healthy food options available, particularly for those working overnight shifts; and
  • The whole supply chain – from “farm to fork” – taking into account sustainability and environmental impact, to ensure the NHS is getting the best quality at the best value for the taxpayer.

Health Minister, Jo Churchill said:

“What we eat has an enormous effect on our overall health and wellbeing and there are few places where this is more important than in our hospitals.

“I want our NHS to be able to make the most of the great variety of fresh, seasonal produce available in this country to provide appetising options which contain all a patient needs to help them on the road to recovery.

“Our dedicated staff deserve the same choice of quality, healthy, and sustaining meals to see them through a busy shift.”

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association said:

“We are pleased to see a full review of hospital food being undertaken and hope it leads to more nutritious and nourishing meals to help patients with their recovery.

“We know from our own work in this area how important it is to patients that they have access to good, high quality food.

“For the sake of their recovery and for their enjoyment, people should be able to look forward to their meals, particularly when dealing with the pressures and worries that a stay in hospital can bring, even with the best of care.”

Rob Percival, Head of Food Policy at the Soil Association said:

“This review is hugely welcome. Imagine if every hospital in England was serving fresh, healthy and sustainable meals. Imagine if the buying power of the NHS was harnessed towards environmentally sustainable food production, tackling climate change, and providing markets for UK farmers.

“Leading NHS Trusts working with the Food for Life programme are already showing that healthy, sustainable and high-quality meals can be served on a tight budget. This review must ensure that good food is at the heart of the NHS and consistently available in every hospital.”

The review will support a wider cross-government “farm to fork” review into Britain’s food system, led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which will deliver a new National Food Strategy spanning environment, agriculture, health and business.

The Government will work with the NHS to build on progress in three vital areas: eliminating junk food from hospitals, improving nutrition, and supporting staff and patients to make healthier choices.

Alongside this review, the NHS is developing new National Standards for Healthcare Food for patients, staff and visitors which will be published in early in 2020. The new standards will reflect Government nutrition advice, as outlined in Public Health England’s Eatwell guide.

As part of the review, Phil Shelley will meet with catering managers at Trusts across the country, looking at best practice from Trusts leading the way in food quality and innovation.

Case studies

The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital have achieved the highest score for food quality in the annual CQC survey for 13 out of the last 14 years. The team works closely with the trust dietitian to ensure menus are healthy and nutritious and use high quality, seasonal ingredients where possible.

Dan Hoggett, Catering Manager at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital said: 

“High quality and nutritious food is essential for patients during their time in hospital and the whole team work extremely hard to ensure that’s exactly what they get.

“We work closely with the Dietician at the Trust to ensure our menus are healthy and we use high quality, local and seasonal ingredients wherever possible.”

North Bristol NHS Trust uses local, fresh produce such as Somerset milk, sustainably sourced fish and Farm Assured meat. The Trust also opened a rooftop garden in 2017.

Andrea Young, Chief Executive Officer at North Bristol NHS Trust said: 

“We all know how important food is to us; good food is a joy and can really promote great health and recovery.

“In hospital, good food becomes even more important and I am delighted that we have been recognised in our efforts to get this right for all our patients, and for our staff.

“Great ingredients, locally sourced, prepared and served with care lie at the heart of our offer to patients, 365 days a year.”



Date: 23/08/2019