Hospi­tal food at risk from no-deal Brexit

The Observer - - News - Toby Helm Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

Hos­pi­tals could run out of much of the im­ported food that goes into mil­lions of pa­tient meals in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Depart­ment of Health and So­cial Care has ad­mit­ted in a let­ter to all NHS trusts in Eng­land.

The depart­ment said it was ur­gently plan­ning to cope with po­ten­tial “short sup­ply of cer­tain in­gre­di­ents im­ported from the EU”, which in­volves ad­vis­ing sup­pli­ers how to use “sub­sti­tute food­stuffs to main­tain nu­tri­tional bal­ance” of meals.

The let­ter – part of the govern­ment’s cross-de­part­men­tal plan­ning for a no-deal Brexit – shows the con­cern about prac­ti­cal dif­fi­cul­ties for key pub­lic ser­vices from bor­der de­lays and in­creased trade fric­tion in the event of no deal.

The Ob­server un­der­stands plan­ning is also un­der way to pre­pare or­gan­i­sa­tions that pro­vide meals to schools, pris­ons and care homes.

The let­ter, de­tails of which have been pro­vided to MPs on the health com­mit­tee by the deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive of NHS providers, Saf­fron Cordery, tells trusts: “In­struc­tions will be given to ma­jor pro­duc­ers of pa­tient meals to put in place con­tin­gency ar­range­ments, to ac­count for short sup­ply of cer­tain in­gre­di­ents.”

It adds that “guid­ance will be pro­vided to hospi­tal cater­ers, pro­cur­ers of pa­tient food and cater­ing ser­vices, and PFI providers on ac­tions to take in pre­par­ing to use sub­sti­tute food­stuffs to main­tain nu­tri­tional bal­ance of pa­tient menu/meal of­fer­ings.”

Andy Jones, chair­man of Pub­lic Sec­tor 100, which rep­re­sents cater­ing as­so­ci­a­tions work­ing in the pub­lic sec­tor, who has seen the let­ter, said he was “very, very con­cerned” that sup­plies would be af­fected. While he be­lieved trusts could make plans that would be ef­fec­tive for weeks, af­ter that, prob­lems would mount and the po­si­tion would be­come crit­i­cal. He said the fact the depart­ment had sent the let­ter sug­gested min­is­ters now be­lieved a no-deal was more likely. He said about 40% of food pro­vided to in-pa­tients was im­ported from the EU.

A Depart­ment of Health and So­cial Care spokesper­son said: “The govern­ment is con­fi­dent of reach­ing a deal with the EU that ben­e­fits pa­tients and the NHS. How­ever, as a re­spon­si­ble govern­ment we are also pre­par­ing for a range of po­ten­tial out­comes.”

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