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Listeria outbreak statement – updated 18th June 2019

Following the announcement on Friday 14th June by Public Health England of two more deaths linked to the recent listeria outbreak, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock called for a ‘root and branch’ review of hospital food.

The Hospital Caterers Association resolutely welcome the Health Secretary’s. intervention and review. Following the announcement, HCA spokesman Stewart Mckenzie, appeared on national television and radio to call for caterers to help lead the inquiry, request the Government release the names of the hospitals involved and to raise critical questions around food chain safety.

On Monday 17th June during parliamentary questions, Matt Hancock advised parliament the Government would be working with the Hospital Caterers Association to; ‘build progress in three vital areas.’ The areas he identified are; eliminating junk food from hospitals, improving nutrition and ensuring healthier choices are available across the NHS.

The Hospital Caterers Association warmly welcomes this inclusion and very much looks forward to addressing what we see as key failings in the current cold food chain audit process.

We would further like to echo the Health Secretary’s comments that there should be “severe consequences” if any evidence of wrongdoing by suppliers is found and call upon all hospital food suppliers to urgently review their current testing and safety procedures.

As a voluntary organisation as old as the NHS itself, and with more than 600 members, our goal is to promote, develop and improve standards in hospital catering. Therefore, the association would not only like the inquiry to review external supply chain processes but also to include a review of current systems within hospitals at ward level.

Patient safety is the HCA’s absolute highest priority and we can all play a part in delivering it. The HCA has produced several documents to support hospital caterers including a Good Practise Guide. These are free to members and are available on our website www.hospitalcaterers.org. In the meantime, we ask all caterers and ward staff to remind hospital visitors, whilst they are very welcome to bring in snacks for patients such as pre-wrapped cakes, biscuits and fruit, they must not bring on to the wards takeaways, cooked rice, cooked meats, meat products, fish products and shell eggs. These prohibited products have a short shelve life and can easily go ‘off’ without any noticeable change to smell, colour or taste and therefore pose a risk. We must all be vigilant.

Hospitals have removed many high-risk items from the patient menu such as soft cheese and pate, but continual removal of ingredients will have a negative impact on patient choice. As an association we would rather ensure that patient food is safe and nutritious whilst offering a balance of choices. We believe if you have best-in-class supply chain safety and robust audit processes, combined with well-trained staff at ward level, a safe and nutritious patient dining experience can be delivered.

We look forward to working with the Government, Public Health England, our members and other organisations over the coming months. Our thoughts continue to be with the families of those affected by this tragedy.

Brian Robb, Vice Chair, The Hospital Caterers Association 

A full transcript of the Health Secretary’s speech and questions can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-06-17/debates/7AE55CED-A874-4178-9888-C1BCC4EDD76C/ListeriaContaminatedSandwiches

A full list of hospitals affected can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/listeria-cases-being-investigated

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