HOS­PI­TAL SAND­WICH CRI­SIS: THE SCAN­DAL DEEP­ENS

Watch­dog warned not to serve them to vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients SEVEN years ago

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Sean Poul­ter and James Tozer

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.