A root and branch review of hospital food led by TV chef and restaurateur Prue Leith has provided the NHS with a new blueprint for kitchens and catering services.
The Hospital Food Review, which was published today, could lead to significant project work for the catering equipment supply chain over the coming years as hospitals upgrade kitchens to follow the recommendations set out in the report.
It has also prompted the government to state that 40 new hospitals being built during the next decade as part of a £3.7 billion investment programme will include “21st century” CPUs and ward kitchens.
The review led by Ms Leith was carried out in the six months prior to lockdown, but the conclusions were only published today. It makes a series of recommendations on how NHS trusts can prioritise food safety and provide more nutritious meals to both staff and patients.
This includes 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 cooked meal for new mums in a maternity ward.
It calls for funding to equip and enhance hospital kitchens, and prioritise providing health-enhancing meals.
Every hospital should also implement a digital meal ordering system by 2022 to collate food choices, manage allergies and diets, and minimise waste, the report suggested.
Additionally, it recommended that NHS trusts agree a common method of monitoring food waste and said that national professional standards for NHS chefs should be introduced with mandatory professional development, including appropriate compulsory food hygiene and allergen training.
Ms Leith said the review provides best-in-class examples of how hospitals can serve nutritious and tasty meals on a budget.
“Food is not only important to health, but to morale. Hospital mealtimes should be a moment of enjoyment and a pleasure to serve. They should inspire staff, patients and visitors to eat well at home.”
Median spend per NHS patient meal is currently £4.56, exceeding the budget of meals offered by other public services.
The government said 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.
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.
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State, Health and Social Care, said: “This pandemic has demonstrated more than ever the importance of good food and proper nutrition. We must all prioritise our health and be empowered to eat well, whether we’re at home or in hospital. This impressive report shows the way to good hospital food for all – patients, staff and visitors.”
An NHS England survey shows that 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.
More than 140 million meals served to NHS patients every year, as well as a further 1.25 million to members of staff on shift.
The government has created a £3.7 billion fund to deliver 40 hospitals across England by 2030, which will include a focus on new catering facilities including restaurants, central kitchens, patient dining spaces and ward kitchens.
The Hospital Food Review recommendations
The review makes the following eight recommendations to improve staff and patient health and wellbeing through hospital food:
1. Catering staff support:introduce professional qualifications and standards for hospital caterers, provide more training and reward excellence with pay progressions.
2. Nutrition and hydration:ensure importance of food services is understood and integrated within patient recovery, hospital governance and staff training.
3. Food safety:ensure food safety through open communication channels to address safety concerns, by appointing food safety specialists and upholding standards.
4. Facilities:provide funding to equip and upgrade hospital kitchens, provide 24/7 services for staff and patients, prioritise providing health-enhancing meals.
5. Technology:every hospital should implement a digital meal ordering system by 2022 to collate food choices, manage allergies and diets, and minimise waste.
6. Enforcing standards:food and drinks standards should be statutory and inspected by the CQC, a forum should be established to share exemplary best practice.
7. Sustainability and waste:ensure Government food procurement standards are upheld, NHS trusts should agree a common method of monitoring food waste.
8. Going forward:establish an expert group of hospital caterers, dietitians and nurses to monitor progress, accountable to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.