HOSPITAL SANDWICH CRISIS: THE SCANDAL DEEPENS
Watchdog warned not to serve them to vulnerable patients SEVEN years ago
HOSPITALS were told seven years ago not to give ready-made sandwiches to vulnerable patients because of food poisoning risks.
The warning about the listeria bug that has killed five patients over the past few weeks was issued by the British Sandwich Association and endorsed by the Food Standards Agency.
It specifically advised that readymade sandwiches should only be given to the sick, including the elderly
outbreak, which has left several others ill, has been blamed on sandwiches and salads. Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced an urgent question in the House of Commons yesterday. He said the crisis had affected hospitals across the country and promised a full investigation with ‘severe consequences’ if wrongdoing emerged.
MPs demanded to know why sick and vulnerable patients were being fed a product known to be a food poisoning risk.
They complained of cost-cutting with some hospitals spending as little as £2 or £3 a day on a patient’s meals. As the row over the outbreak intensified:
Mr Hancock admitted cases had been reported in eight hospitals from Manchester to Worthing on the South coast;
He urged anyone suffering symptoms of listeria, which include a high temperature and stomach problems, to contact NHS 111 or, in severe cases, dial 999;
Public Health England continued to refuse to give details of the patients;
The Food Standards Agency said it had revisited its guidance for suppliers and NHS trusts on serving sandwiches; The Chilled Food Association warned that safety standards at firms supplying sandwiches to hospitals remained lower than those sold to supermarkets;
It emerged that a 201 report by food consultancy STS had identified packaged sandwiches as the cause of ‘almost all’ of nine previous hospital listeria outbreaks.
The original warning about ready-made sandwiches and listeria was written in February 2012 by Jim Winship, director of the British Sandwich Association. He wrote: ‘In view of concerns raised about the risks to certain vulnerable patients from listeriosis, the BSA is recommending that sandwiches and salads should not be served to these high-risk patients without the prior agreement of the clinicians responsible.’
An FSA official backed this advice, writing: ‘I would support the reissuing of this advice to your members.’
The FSA insisted it was right to change its advice three years ago. It said: ‘The FSA listeriosis guidance, published in 2016, is robust in setting out good practice controls that hospitals can put in place to manage listeria risks.
‘We have revisited this guidance in light of the outbreak and have confirmed that it remains current.’
Kaarin Goodburn, director of the Chilled Food Association, said patients were dying because NHS sandwich suppliers were not forced to stick to the strict environmental and hygiene requirements for those supplying major retailers.
According to Public Health England, the source of the current outbreak is products supplied by The Good Food Chain and the affected sandwiches and salads have since been withdrawn from hospitals.
The first three victims who died from food poisoning had been receiving treatment at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool.
The other cases occurred at St Richard’s, Chichester, Worthing, Wexham, Royal Derby, William Harvey in Kent, and Leicester Royal Infirmary.
WHEN will Public Health England tell the
whole truth about the listeria outbreak which has so far killed five hospital patients and left others seriously ill?
The chilling rise of deadly hospitalacquired infections strikes at the very heart of public confidence in our health service. Yet the details of this outbreak are still shrouded in secrecy.
We don’t know who the victims were, how old or what sex they were, the full circumstances surrounding their deaths, or whether an external inquiry is under way.
Until yesterday, we didn’t even know all the affected hospitals.
We do know contaminated pre-packed sandwiches have been blamed, but not exactly how and where infection controls broke down. Was it at the factory where the sandwiches were made, or the supplier of the meat that went into them?
What sort of meat was it? How many more patients could be at risk?
As the bacterium takes 70 days to incubate and the last known case was reported on May 15, it’s quite conceivable the death toll will rise.
Don’t people have a right to know whether they, their children or their elderly relatives could be in danger?
With typical obfuscation, PHE is hiding behind confidentiality and data protection to sit on many salient facts. So what do they have to hide?
Today, the Mail reveals that as early as 2012 the authorities were warned listeria was more prevalent in hospital sandwiches than those sold by retailers, because safeguards were less strict.
Yet still they are being given on a daily basis to weak and vulnerable patients.
As Kaarin Goodburn, of the Chilled Food Association, put it at the weekend: ‘People are being killed by food they have effectively been fed by the Government.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock promises transparency and a ‘root-and-branch’ review. He must start by ordering PHE to reveal the full facts.
Until it does, suspicions of an organised cover-up will grow stronger by the day.
From the Mail: June 8 Saturday Yesterday