The listeria sandwich scandal prompted even Health Secretary Matt Hancock to call publicly for NHS managers to end their dependence on external private suppliers and bring cooking back in house, with hospitals once again employing their own chefs and relying on quality local food.

That is the way it used to be before Margaret Thatcher’s government artificially separated “hotel services” from the rest of the hospital and subjected cleaning, catering and laundry services in particular to competitive tendering.

Hancock, apparently oblivious to his own party’s role in undermining standards of hospital food, called for a “root and branch review,” noting that “dozens of hospital trusts” had improved food quality by bringing catering back in house.

Hancock also appeared blissfully unaware his shadow opposite number, Jonathan Ashworth, had called for precisely these changes, along with measures to enforce higher food standards, more than a year earlier. He said:

“Unlike schools and prisons there are no mandatory minimum requirements for hospital meals, so the next Labour government will substantially increase investment in our NHS to improve patient care including providing the nutritious meals patients deserve.”

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