HC Deb 06 February 1986 vol 91 c211W
Mr. Richard Shepherd

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has yet completed his review of Crown immunity in respect of hospital kitchens; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Fowler

Yes. I have completed the review of Crown immunity of hospital kitchens in respect of the food hygiene provisions of the Food Act 1984. Inevitably much of the ground covered is the subject of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend and I pay tribute to the effectiveness with which he has pursued this matter. His Bill is to be debated tomorrow and I think it right to indicate now the conclusions which the Government have drawn from the review and the action which will follow.

The Government share the widespread concern about the state of hygiene in some hospital kitchens. This problem led to tragic consequences at the Stanley Royd hospital in August 1985 which was the subject of the recent inquiry. In responding to these problems there can be no substitute for more effective management and supervision in hospital kitchens generally. The introduction of general managers, who will be both responsible and accountable for these and other matters, will do much to secure this. But the Government have concluded that there is more that can and should be done.

The Food Act 1984 and the Food Hygiene (General) Regulations 1970 do not apply to the Crown. Nevertheless, it has for many years been Government policy that health authorities should behave as if they did. But the Government have decided that the nature of the problems displayed by recent events is such that stronger safeguards are needed to underpin management effort and above all to protect the patients. I therefore intend to introduce legislation in the present Session to remove Crown immunity from hospital catering in respect of the food hygiene regulations by making health authorities subject to the provisions of the Food Act.

This legislation will be coupled with strengthened guidance to the health service on measures to ensure high food hygiene standards. The Government are determined to spare no effort to secure the highest standards of food hygiene in hospitals.