HC Deb 09 December 1963 vol 686 cc23-5
22. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the concern aroused by the report of the three scientists commissioned by the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust, a copy of which has been sent to him, concerning the state of kitchens and food in many hospitals; what study he has made of the report; and if he will make a statement.

23. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the facts revealed in the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust's report on food in hospitals, a copy of which has been sent to him; what steps he proposes to take to ensure that the recommendations in the report are implemented as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Barber

I am still studying this report. The survey on which it was based was made in 1960, 1961 and 1962, and considerable improvements have since been and are being made. Most of the recommendations are already included in the advice given by the Ministry of Health on catering problems, including meal content, preparation and service, and the avoidance of unnecessary waste. I welcome the report as a further stimulus to hospital authorities to secure universally high standards.

Mr. Dodds

Is the Minister saying that the conditions which were revealed by these highly responsible and qualified people do not exist today, or is he saying that part of them has been altered? Can he tell us who has got into trouble at the Ministry of Health for allowing such conditions to exist and how can the skill of our doctors and nurses be helped if such things as dirty kitchens and very poor food are allowed to persist?

Mr. Barber

I was saying in answer to the hon. Member that nearly two years ago, in January, 1962, advice was given to hospital authorities on how food should be prepared, cooked and served to the high standards. I can certainly assure the hon. Member that inefficient catering will get no sympathy from me. Where there is unnecessary waste or bad catering the greater the public outcry the better. After all, we are dealing with the taxpayers' money and this is a public service. However, it is grossly unfair and naïve to pretend that there is something universally wrong with hospital catering. Many hospitals are absolutely first-class, but some of the staff are having to cope with out of date facilities. We must persevere until we ensure that the general standard is brought up to the standard of the best.

Mr. K. Robinson

Would the Minister not agree that this survey was made in 156 hospitals, which represented a scientific sample, and that although no doubt some hospitals are very good, the great majority of the larger hospitals came in for some very swingeing criticism from this distinguished body of experts? Would he not also agree that waste amounting to 40–45 per cent. of the total food prepared in hospitals is a shocking and scandalous thing which requires urgent action on his part and on that of the hospital authorities?

Mr. Barber

I think that the estimate given of the average waste of food in hospitals, not by the report but by some newspaper commentators, was somewhat exaggerated. However, I entirely agree that there is much to be done here and that if we are successful in reducing the amount of waste we shall save a considerable amount of money. I hope that hon. Members and those outside this House will—as I am sure the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) has done—read the whole of the Report, because if they do they will see that it contains a great deal of praise for some hospitals.