Boris Johnson drafts in Great British Bake Off's Prue Leith for 'root and branch' review of NHS food after listeria deaths
Boris Johnson has brought in Great British Bake Off star Prue Leith to carry out a "root and branch" review of NHS food in the wake of a listeria outbreak.
The Prime Minister named the cookery contest judge and restaurateur as an adviser to the review, which will look at how the health service can use food to "help aid faster recovery" and do more to "monitor food safety and quality more transparently".
The move comes after the deaths of six people following an outbreak of listeria which has been linked to pre-packaged NHS sandwiches and salads.
But Labour accused ministers of failing to properly invest in hospitals for "years".
Ms Leith - a former chair of the School Food Trust - will advise the review's chairman Phil Shelley, who previously led the Hospital Catering Association, as they look at ways to boost the number of hospitals with their own kitchens and cut a reliance on frozen food.
Mr Johnson said: "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."
According to the Government, the review will also look at how to improve food options for NHS staff working night shifts and cut the environmental impact of the health service's food supply chain.
NHS England, NHS Improvement and Public Health England will also be tasked with drawing up new national standards for healthcare food, Downing Street said, as it acknowledged that the "quality and nutritional value of these meals can vary substantially".
Launching the review, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "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."
But Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the review had been promised "months ago" as he accused Mr Hancock of "incompetence".
"Years of austerity mean that some hospitals are only spending close to £3 per patient a day on meals for patients - it’s an utter disgrace," the opposition frontbencher said.
"Labour will invest in hospital catering, enforce mandatory minimum standards and bring catering back in-house."