Prue Leith working with government to tackle 'unpalatable' hospital food after listeria deaths

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
Prue Leith, pictured at a photocall during the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2019, will advise on a government review into hospital food. [Photo: Getty]

Prue Leith will be advising a government review into the quality of hospital food, following the deaths of six people after contracting listeria infections from hospital food.

Health secretary Matt Hancock called for a comprehensive review into hospital food last June, in wake of the deaths.

The six people are believed to have caught the deadly listeria infections from pre-packaged sandwiches and salads purchased on-site at hospital or give to them by hospital staff.

Leith will be involved in the "root and branch" review launched by the Department of Health and Social Care today. It will examine the quality of the 140 million hospital meals provided for patients and staff every year.

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The ‘Great British Bake Off’ judge and celebrity chef has been vocal in the past about the standard of NHS hospital food, calling on trusts to improve the quality for those in care.

"Millions of pounds are wasted in hospitals with food ending up in the bin, unpalatable food being the main complaint,” she told Press Association.

"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."

As well as the six listeria deaths, there were 17 fatalities linked to separate outbreaks of listeria and streptococcus earlier this year – an incident a former health chief blamed on “systematic failures” in public health.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has welcomed the review.

He 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.

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"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."

Leith isn’t the first celebrity chef to be involved in a hospital food review. She follows in the footsteps of James Martin, who spent 12 weeks working with catering staff in Scarborough General in 2012.

Heston Blumenthal also worked on a project to improve hospital meals in collaboration with the University of Reading and the Royal Berkshire Hospital in 2010.