Prue Leith, chef and judge on the hit TV show Great British Bake Off, is to advise the UK government on a review of hospital food served up by the National Health Service (NHS).
The review will be chaired by Phil Shelley, past national chair of the Hospital Catering Association (HCA).
Announcing the move, the Department for Health and Social Care admitted that the quality and nutritional value of the 140m NHS meals served each year can vary substantially. Earlier this year, six people died from an outbreak of listeria linked to contaminated NHS hospital sandwiches.
Its review will consider how food can aid faster recovery, how bodies such as the Soil Association and the National Caterers Association can help source more food locally and reduce reliance on frozen and packaged foods, and how more healthy options can be made available for NHS staff.
It will also look at employing new systems to monitor food safety and quality more transparently, and will consider how to increase the number of hospitals with their own kitchens and who have their own chefs.
Shelley will meet with catering managers at trusts across the country, looking at best practice from those leading the way in food quality and innovation.
Meanwhile Leith, who has previously spoken out on the need for hospitals to provide healthy options that aid recovery, will draw on her experience working in catering, high-quality restaurants and as a former chair of the School Food Trust.
Prime minister Boris 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.”
Health and social care 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.”