MP says sorry over hospital kitchens

SHAUN LOWTHORPE A Norfolk MP last night apologised after admitting a report labelling kitchen hygiene standards at the county's flagship hospital among the worst in the country was wrong.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

A Norfolk MP last night apologised after admitting a report labelling kitchen hygiene standards at the county's flagship hospital among the worst in the country was wrong.

On Monday a report by the Lib Dems ranked the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital as among the worst six in the country, based on the number of breaches uncovered by environmental health officers.

But Norman Lamb, the party's health spokesman, said the report had over-egged the pudding and not distinguished between serious breaches and minor infringements.

Bosses at the N&N had questioned the findings of the report and yesterday Mr Lamb apologised to the hospital after accepting an invitation to see hygiene standards himself with chief executive Paul Forden and head of catering Nayab Haider.

Mr Lamb hoped his prompt apology would draw a line under the N&N issue, but he insisted that the mishap would not detract from the serious hygiene breaches at other hospitals and the key message that the public had a right to know about cleanliness standards.

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"All the things quoted in the report were accurate; it's a question of what weight you want to give them," he said. "I don't want to mislead or distort, I want to paint an accurate picture and I want to take this to another stage.

"The categorisation in their case was unfair and I have accepted that," he said. "That's wrong and I acknowledge that.

"I have always had a close and open relationship with them, and I want to maintain that. I was very impressed with the catering manager - he was passionate and enthusiastic about it and I give him full credit for that," he added. "I want to be open and upfront about this, but I don't want this to detract from the bigger issue." Mr Lamb said he planned to write to ministers detailing how standards could be improved and called for all hygiene reports to be made public.

Hospital spokesman Andrew Stronach welcomed Mr Lamb's U-turn.

"We had serious reservations about the quality of the research, and it would have been nice with hindsight if Norman had got in touch with us beforehand and went through it with us. He is always welcome to call us anytime to check anything."

He added that the council hygiene reports could include ratings to give a clearer picture of standards and said the N&N would not object to reports being published.

"We were delighted that he came in to look first-hand. Our team run a very tight ship and we are proud of them. It's regrettable that the report gives an impression we do not deserve, but we accept he is trying to improve things and support him in making sure the NHS is accountable and open."

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