North West Anglia NHS ‘bucking the trend’ towards safer hospital food

North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust’s move to outsource catering puts it at odds with other hospitals and the Health Secretary when it comes to food hygiene, unions UNISON and Unite warn today.

The Trust, which runs Hinchingbrooke, Peterborough and Stamford & Rutland hospitals, wants to sell around 70 staff in catering, cleaning, portering and other support services, out of the NHS. The Trust plans to combine them with around 100 facilities staff already outsourced to three different firms under a single private employer.

It puts North West Anglia NHS at odds with a drive identified by Health Secretary Matt Hancock towards insourcing services, which the minister said had improved standards.

Last summer, six NHS hospital patients across England died from listeria after eating contaminated sandwiched or salads prepared by a private supplier.

Asked about the outbreak in the Commons, Mr Hancock said: “Dozens of hospital trusts have brought their catering in-house and found that they get better quality food that is more likely to be locally produced and is better value for money. We will be examining that model closely, because I am very attracted to it, and it has the potential to reduce the risk of safety concerns such as this.”

Hinchingbrooke’s in-house catering team has won awards for high-quality, freshly cooked food but the Trust wants to replace this with externally prepared food.

The unions wrote to local MPs this week to highlight their concerns and have launched a petition calling for all North West Anglia NHS staff to be employed in house, not by private profiteers.

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UNISON Eastern regional organiser Cheryl Godber said: “Proper freshly cooked food is an essential ingredient in getting patients back on their feet and keeping staff going during long shifts caring for those in need.

“Private companies are responsible to their shareholders rather than the public good. We can’t rely on them to get it right — especially when we know getting it wrong can have fatal consequences.

“It’s staggering that North West Anglia hospitals wants to buck the trend towards safer hospital food, scrapping an award-winning service during a pandemic. We urge them to follow the Health Secretary’s advice and think again to ensure its services are delivered in house.”

Unite regional officer Adam Oakes said: “In-house services provide the best care to patients and they are not compromised by the need to make a profit which is the bottom line for all private companies.

“There is no evidence that outsourcing NHS services to the private sector ever improves care to patients and plenty of examples where the quality of the overall care provision has been eroded, once a profit motive has been introduced into hospital services.”

Sign the petition