Patient meals under threat from no-deal Brexit

The Department of Health and Social Care has written to all NHS trusts in England saying that 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 letter, which forms part of the government’s cross-departmental planning for a no-deal Brexit, highlights the concern about practical difficulties for key public services, with the Observer reporting that planning is also under way to prepare organisations that provide meals to schools, prisons and care homes.

The Department of Health and Social Care has reiterated that is is urgently planning to cope with a 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 says 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 and former chair of the Hospital Caterers Association, emphasised his concerns that supplies would be affected. He said about 40 per cent of food provided to in-patients was imported from the EU, with much of the chicken, and salad consumed out of season, came from the EU.

He said: “It is not just of case of whether we will be able to get enough, if there is no deal, but also whether we will be able to afford it. Good food is vital for patients. Food is like medicine. If patients don’t get it then in some cases they will not get home. One thing we will see I think is choice disappearing. People will just be given what we can get our hands on.”

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