Hospital hits back at poor hygiene claim

SHAUN LOWTHORPE A row has erupted over the state of kitchen cleanliness at Norfolk's flagship hospital amid claims standards were among the worst in Britain. A survey of council environmental health reports by the Liberal Democrats found that nationally nearly half of all hospital kitchens and canteens in England could be failing to meet basic standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

A row has erupted over the state of kitchen cleanliness at Norfolk's flagship hospital amid claims standards were among the worst in Britain.

A survey of council environmental health reports by the Liberal Democrats found that nationally nearly half of all hospital kitchens and canteens in England could be failing to meet basic standards of cleanliness and hygiene.

The report is based on a freedom of information request submitted to a quarter of all English local authorities, asking them for their local authority health inspection reports into the food preparation areas of hospitals within their authority.

It said dozens of hospitals were failing to store food at the correct temperature, while 18 had food that was out of date, putting patients' health at risk.

Vermin, cockroaches and mouse droppings, medical waste on food handling equipment and poor person hygiene among catering staff were all cited as problems.

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The Norfolk and Norwich was one of six hospitals where inspections highlighted five or more areas of concern, the report said.

Issues raised included food storage and condition; Food temperature; lack of food safety documentation; poor personal hygiene or lack of hand washing and poor cleanliness/condition of workplace.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “These findings paint a shocking picture of hospital food hygiene in this country.

“It is simply unacceptable that such terrible practices are taking place in an environment where hygiene and safety should be paramount.

“Sick people are already vulnerable to infection. They don't need the added risk of food-borne bacteria spread by lax standards.

“What concerned me about the N&N is that we are dealing with a new hospital.”

But N&N bosses insisted their kitchen facilities were up to scratch and invited the Lib Dem MP to come along and see for himself.

Hospital spokesman Andrew Stronach said the hospital's kitchens had consistently been deemed of a good standard by environmental health inspectors from South Norfolk Council.

“Any suggestion our kitchens are not up to the proper standards is without foundation,” he said. “Our inspection results have been around the 90pc mark and, in any, inspection, the inspectors will make follow-up recommendations and where these have been made they have been promptly actioned. Our hospital is also the only one in the East of England judged as excellent for cleanliness and catering under the National Patient Safety Agency inspections.

He added: “We'd welcome him raising any concerns he may have with us and he'd be very welcome to spend time in the hospital kitchens seeing at first-hand the good job the catering staff do.”

Mr Lamb accepted the invite and he urged hospitals to display environmental health reports on their websites.

“I would be very pleased to go and look at standards,” he added. “Patients have a right to know how their food is being prepared when they go into hospital. Hygiene standards must be made public via clear and accessible ratings for each institution.

“The worst performers should be named and shamed - while those doing well would stand as an example to drive up standards.”

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