Listeria's not a reason to bring NHS catering in house

Listeria’s an excellent excuse to bring National Health Service catering in house, it’s just not a good reason to do so. But that seems to be the way Matt Hancock is taking matters:

Eight NHS hospitals have been hit by the listeria outbreak which has killed five patients, the Health Secretary has revealed.

Matt Hancock made the disclosures as he said he was keen to see the health service take NHS catering back in-house, in a bid to improve safety.

The Health Secretary on Monday named six NHS hospitals which have been hit by the outbreak, linked to pre-packed sandwiches and salads, as he vowed to “take the necessary steps” to restore trust in hospital food.

That sandwiches are made by this group over here, rather than that group over there, doesn’t particularly increase nor decrease the risks of food bourne illnesses like listeria. It’s possible to argue it either way in fact. Centralisation might mean higher standards but greater damage if and when they’re breached, while decentralisation out to each individual hospital would mean any particular outbreak being less damaging but it could raise the number of them.

Mr Hancock has now set out plans for a “root and branch” review of hospital food, to improve its nutrition, as well as its safety.

And he said he would be keen to see an end to outsourcing of hospital food.

He told the Commons: “There are dozens of hospital trusts that have brought their catering inhouse and found that you get better quality food more likely to be locally produced and better value for money by bringing the delivery of food services in house. And that is something we are going to be examining very closely because i am very attracted to that model and it also has the potential to reduce the risk of safety concerns like this.”

Clearly he already wants to do this anyway. Listeria is an excuse, not a reason.