A review into hospital food to improve quality and boost transparency in supply chains has been announced by the UK government.
The review will consider “how food can aid faster recovery” for patients, as well as how NHS staff can be provided with healthier options.
The Department of Health and Social Care said while the NHS serves more than 140m million meals to patients across the country, the quality and nutritional value of meals “can vary substantially”.
As part of the review, the impact of sourcing hospital food services locally and reducing reliance on frozen and pre-packaged foods will be considered, with support from organisations such as the Soil Association and National Caterers Association.
It will also look at the sustainability and environmental impact of the whole supply chain for hospital food.
New national standards for healthcare food for patients, staff and visitors will also be developed by NHS England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England to reflect government nutrition advice.
It will also explore how new systems can be implemented to monitor food safety and quality to boost transparency and how NHS boards can be held to account.
The review will be chaired by Phil Shelley, with celebrity chef and Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith acting as an advisor.
The review follows the deaths of six people linked to an outbreak of listeria in hospitals earlier this year. Nine cases of listeria were reported to be linked sandwiches made by supplier, The Good Food Chain, which voluntarily ceased production during the investigation.
Meat produced by North Country Cooked Meats, which supplied The Good Food Chain, also received a positive test result for listeria and voluntarily ceased production.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said the review will ensure the NHS “remains the standard-bearer for healthy choices”.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “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.”
Rob Percival, head of food policy at the Soil Association, said: “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.
“This review must ensure that good food is at the heart of the NHS and consistently available in every hospital.”
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