Johnson highlights importance of hot meals on hospital wards

Boris Johnson was responding to a report from experts including Bake Off star Prue Leith on changes to hospital food.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, to mark the publication of a new review into hospital food
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, to mark the publication of a new review into hospital food

Patients on hospital wards should be served hot toast around the clock, Boris Johnson said as an independent review set out a series of recommendations for safer and more nutritious meals.

Great British Bake Off star Prue Leith, one of the advisers on the review, said hospital food can be “delicious, nutritious and nicely presented”.

The Prime Minister said: “It’s massively important for patients and for staff that they should have hot and nutritious meals available in the wards and across hospitals at all times of the day.”

It was “therapeutic, it’s beneficial” for patients to have good quality food, he said.

Boris Johnson visit to Royal Berkshire Hospital
Boris Johnson and Prue Leith during a visit to Royal Berkshire Hospital (Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA)

Speaking during a visit to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, Mr Johnson said that in the 40 new hospitals being constructed or rebuilt “there will be kitchens and facilities on the wards so people can get hot toast at all times of the day”.

He was joined on the visit by Leith, who reportedly quit the Conservative Party this month after the Government rejected a bid to force trade deals to meet UK animal welfare and food safety rules.

Digital menus and upgraded kitchens providing a 24/7 service are among recommendations in an independent review published on Monday.

The review was launched following a deadly outbreak of listeriosis in hospitals last year linked to pre-packaged sandwiches and salads.

The panel of advisers, including chef Leith, has set out ways NHS trusts can prioritise food safety and provide more nutritious meals in hospitals.

The Government has said it will establish an expert group of NHS caterers, dietitians and nurses to decide on next steps.

Leith said: “The review provides best-in-class examples of how hospitals can serve delicious, nutritious and nicely presented 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.”

Boris Johnson visit to Royal Berkshire Hospital
The Prime Minister was joined by Leith on the hospital visit (Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA)

Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon Restaurants and independent lead on the National Food Strategy, said hospitals must be a “guiding light” in efforts to “get to grips with the slow-motion disaster that is the British diet”.

Recommendations include upgraded kitchens which can cater for a wide range of needs, from new mothers in a maternity ward to patients hungry after a long fast due to surgery, and staff working overnight.

The review also said digital menus and food ordering systems taking into account a patient’s needs could improve communication between dietitians and caterers, reduce food waste and provide patients with the right food for recovery.

An agreed set of national professional standards for NHS chefs with mandatory professional development, including appropriate compulsory food hygiene and allergen training, was also recommended.

The report said increasing the role of nurses, dietitians, caterers and staff wellbeing leads in overseeing food services could help to ensure nutritious meals are part of a patient’s recovery plan.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson serving up a meal during a visit to Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading
Boris Johnson serves up a meal at Royal Berkshire Hospital (Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA)

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “Good food is key to good health, so every meal that patients get in hospital should be appetising and nutritious.

“It’s also right that the NHS continues to play its part in tackling the nation’s obesity crisis by supporting people to eat well.”

A 2018 staff survey showed that 58% of patients rated hospital food as very good or good, and 39% of hospital staff felt food and catering facilities offered in their workplaces were poor, the Department of Health said.

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