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Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith advises review into hospital food after listeria deaths

Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith will help the government's review into hospital food following anoutbreak of listeria which killed six people earlier this year.

The Department of Health and Social Care review will examine if in-house hospital catering can be increased and look at other measures to improve food quality.

In June, Health secretary Matt Hancock called for a review after patients contracted listeria after being given pre-packaged sandwiches and salads either bought on site or given out by the hospital.

The "root and branch" investigation will examine whether kitchen facilities can be enhanced to bring in more chefs, as well as using less frozen food and sourcing fresh produce where possible.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock called for the review. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Celebrity chef Leith has previously said more should be done to increase the standard of patients' food.

She 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.”

The review will examine the quality of the estimated 140 million meals provided to patients each year, as well as staff meals.

Professor John Ashton warned that years of austerity and cuts to local authority budgets had stripped the ability of environmental health departments to keep up with threats Credit: John Ashton/PA

It comes as a former health chief, Professor John Ashton, blamed "systematic failings" in public outbreaks for deaths linked to different outbreaks of listeria and streptococcus earlier this year.

In July, NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group confirmed 13 people had died in an outbreak of invasive Group A streptococcus.

Mr Hancock said of the review: “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.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson supported the review. Credit: PA

Prime minister Boris Johnson supported the review, saying: “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.”

Royal College of Nursing England director Patricia Marquis said: "Ensuring patients and staff have access to healthy, nutritious food in hospital is essential but you don’t need a celebrity chef to tell you hospital food needs an overhaul.”

She added: “Our expectations for this review go beyond half-baked schemes no matter how noble. This won’t make a lasting impact without a full-scale investment in the health and care system."