The “root and branch” review will look at the quality of the 140 million meals served to NHS patients each year. It follows the deaths of six people linked to an outbreak of listeria in contaminated salads and sandwiches earlier this year. Celebrity chef Leith has previously criticised the standard of hospital meals and told how “millions of pounds” worth of “unpalatable” hospital food was currently “ending up in the bin”.
Leith added: “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 highlight – a little pleasure and comfort – and should help, not hinder, a patient’s recovery.”
As part of the review, experts will consider whether hospital trusts could prepare more food on-site, use less frozen food and make the most of local produce.
They will also establish new national standards for the food served to staff and patients.
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 meals will not only aid patient recovery, but 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 to improve the nation’s wellbeing.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people in hospital should be given “the best, most delicious and nutritious food to help them recover”.
He added: “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 meals and I want to help more hospitals follow suit by sharing what works best across the country.”
The review was announced as a former health chief blamed “systematic failures” in public health for multiple deaths linked to separate outbreaks of listeria and streptococcus this year.
Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society Of Medicine, Prof John Ashton, former north-west regional director of public health, warned that cuts to local authority budgets had meant environmental health departments were unable to keep up with threats.
In July, NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group confirmed 13 people had died following an outbreak of invasive Group A streptococcus.
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