Patients and hard-working NHS staff are set to enjoy healthier, tastier meals and greater choice thanks to a review into the quality of hospital food launched by the Health Secretary today.

Musgrove Park Hospital’s catering manager, Philip Shelley, has been asked to lead the review.

Every year, the NHS serves more than 140 million meals to patients across the country. However, with quality varying throughout the NHS, the review will establish new national quality standards for the food served to staff, patients and visitors.

The review will look at whether we can increase the number of hospitals catering in-house and whether changes to NHS kitchen facilities are needed to reduce reliance on outsourced catering and increase the number of hospitals who have their own chefs.

It will also consider how Trusts could use less frozen food, make greater use of seasonal, fresh produce and source locally where appropriate. NHS staff will also benefit, with the review considering how to give them greater choice while on shift, particularly for those working overnight.

Restaurateur and celebrity chef Prue Leith CBE will act as an advisor to the review, drawing on her experience working in high-quality restaurants and as a former Chair of the School Food Trust. Leith has previously spoken out on the need for hospitals to provide healthy, nourishing and filling options which aid recovery and for meals to be tailored to the individual needs of the patient.

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 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.”

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said:

“We all know how important the food we eat is to our health. We have a duty to ensure this same level of attention is given to the food served to patients in hospital, or our brilliant NHS staff working tirelessly for patients - and indeed to visitors.

“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.”

Restaurateur, celebrity chef and television presenter Prue Leith CBE said:

“Millions of pounds are wasted in hospitals with food ending up in the bin, unpalatable food being the main complaint.

“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 small highlight, a little pleasure and comfort, and it should help, not hinder, the patient’s recovery.”

Matt Hancock has appointed former head of the Hospital Caterers Association and catering lead for Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, Philip Shelley, to chair the review, which will draw on the expertise of hospital caterers, patient groups, suppliers and kitchen staff across the country.

Philip Shelley, chairman of the Hospital Food Review said: “I am privileged to be asked to lead the root and branch review of hospital food; this is an opportunity for positive change and to address current issues as we drive the safety of food and progressive standards for our patients.

“It is vital that we use the evidence from excellent case studies around the country that prove what a difference food can make in empowering patient recovery.”

The review follows the tragic deaths of six people linked to an outbreak of listeria in contaminated food earlier this year. It aims to improve public confidence in hospital food by setting out clear ambitions for delivering the high-quality food patients and the public have a right to expect.

It will consider:

How food can help aid faster recovery, taking into account the unique needs of vulnerable groups, to ensure patient meals provide the right nutritional value;

How national bodies such as the Soil Association and National Caterers Association can support the NHS to provide food services locally and reduce reliance on frozen or packaged foods;

New systems to monitor food safety and quality more transparently, including looking at how NHS Boards are held to account;

How the NHS can be a standard bearer for healthier choices for patients, staff and visitors, as part of improving the nation’s public health;

How we can support dedicated NHS staff by giving them more choice and making more healthy food options available, particularly for those working overnight shifts; and

The whole supply chain – from “farm to fork” - taking into account sustainability and environmental impact, to ensure the NHS is getting the best quality at the best value for the taxpayer.

Health Minister, Jo Churchill said: “What we eat has an enormous effect on our overall health and wellbeing and there are few places where this is more important than in our hospitals.

“I want our NHS to be able to make the most of the great variety of fresh, seasonal produce available in this country to provide appetising options which contain all a patient needs to help them on the road to recovery.

“Our dedicated staff deserve the same choice of quality, healthy, and sustaining meals to see them through a busy shift.”

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association said:

“We are pleased to see a full review of hospital food being undertaken and hope it leads to more nutritious and nourishing meals to help patients with their recovery.

“We know from our own work in this area how important it is to patients that they have access to good, high quality food.

“For the sake of their recovery and for their enjoyment, people should be able to look forward to their meals, particularly when dealing with the pressures and worries that a stay in hospital can bring, even with the best of care.”

Rob Percival, Head of Food Policy at the Soil Association said:

“This review is hugely welcome. 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.

“Leading NHS Trusts working with the Food for Life programme are already showing that healthy, sustainable and high-quality meals can be served on a tight budget. This review must ensure that good food is at the heart of the NHS and consistently available in every hospital.”

The review will support a wider cross-government “farm to fork” review into Britain’s food system, led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which will deliver a new National Food Strategy spanning environment, agriculture, health and business.

The Government will work with the NHS to build on progress in three vital areas: eliminating junk food from hospitals, improving nutrition, and supporting staff and patients to make healthier choices.

Alongside this review, the NHS is developing new National Standards for Healthcare Food for patients, staff and visitors which will be published in early in 2020. The new standards will reflect Government nutrition advice, as outlined in Public Health England’s Eatwell guide.

As part of the review, Phil Shelley will meet with catering managers at Trusts across the country, looking at best practice from Trusts leading the way in food quality and innovation.