Nurses and dietitians should help draw up menus in their hospitals, an official review will recommend, in a bid to eradicate “inedible” food in the health service.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Prue Leith, the television chef tasked by Boris Johnson with reviewing hospital food, states that the Government’s formal review panel will recommend a requirement for in-house medics to “work closely” with caterers to ensure that patients and staff are being offered healthier meals.
The panel is expected to say that the change would help ensure that nutritious food becomes part of a patient’s recovery plan.
As part of a set of measures expected to be announced on Monday, the panel will also call for hospitals to provide fresh food around the clock.
Ms Leith warns that “39 per cent of patients were unhappy with the quality of the food they were given” and “many staff on night shift are eating unhealthy food from vending machines”.
The review was commissioned by Mr Johnson shortly after entering Downing Street last year, with the Prime Minister declaring that guaranteeing “nutritional, tasty and fresh meals” in hospitals would aid patient recovery and help to “fuel staff and visitors”.
Ms Leith has previously warned that vulnerable patients are being asked to survive on “inedible” food including “unidentifiable grey mush” and “sweaty cheese”.
The report is expected to recommend that nurses, dietitians and clinicians responsible for staff well-being are tasked with helping to oversee the provision of food in their hospitals, so nutritious meals become part of formal plans to help a patient’s recovery. It also proposes the 24/7 provision of food for staff and patients.
Separately, Ms Leith reveals that the recommendations will include improving cooking facilities at hospitals, a “renewed focus” on food safety, doing more to attract chefs to the NHS, and ensuring that hospital catering is better “recognised” and more “rewarding”.
Research suggests that every year, more than 7,000 tonnes of NHS meals is discarded. Ministers had said the “root and branch” review would establish new quality standards for food, and examine whether catering should be brought in-house.
The review followed the deaths of six patients who contracted listeria from pre-packaged sandwiches and salads at NHS hospitals.
Ms Leith states: “We know that past lapses in food safety in the food chain have had tragic consequences.”
She adds that the “substantial recommendations” will be “taken forward by a review body consisting of senior medical and nursing staff, dietitians, caterers and administrators, many of whom have already made successful changes in their own hospitals and are enthusiastic about helping others improve.”
Ms Leith, who founded Leiths School of Food and Wine in 1975, was brought in by British Rail in the 1980s to overhaul its sandwiches, and introduced brown bread to the fare on offer.