HUNT BALLS: Why better food in hospitals is merely another Trojan Horse from Jeremy

huntgrinSlog whistle-blower slams Hunt wheeze, says food costs “will have to rise tenfold”

A seemingly laudable plan from the DoH to improve patient nutrition and food quality will put the hospital trusts under yet more pressure, claims a senior source in the public health sector. The initiative launched today arrives in the context of huge cuts in NHS Trust food costs in recent years, soaring food inflation, and rising costs in the treatment of cancers and tumours. Significantly, Mr Hunt is not bringing any budget increases to the table.

You have to hand it to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, he is a master of looking holy while doing something pernicious.

Today, the man who Did Nothing Wrong is introducing five new hospital meal standards. But there is really a lot more to it than that. He is also demanding that every patient entering hospital should be screened for malnutrition and be given a personalised food plan…..and that any patient who needs help from staff to eat or drink should receive it.

It all sounds very wonderful, but why should the NHS be asked to monitor and then cough up for the state of the malnourished with lousy pensions and poor welfare cover? Isn’t that Ian Duncan-Smith’s problem? And it’s fine to set must-haves from nurses, but will there be more in the budget for this, and will the nurses get a pay-rise? No, of course not.

The not entirely hidden agenda here is highlighted in this extract from Hunt’s spin-pack (my italics):

The standards will also stipulate that Hospitals not implementing all the required changes will be in breach of their contracts with the GP-led NHS local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) which pay them to treat patients.

Ahaaa….the Conservative-installed CCGs again. Those folks who see themselves as entrepreneurs, and as a result of this get a staggering 80% of the NHS budget, while the hospital trusts – with all their physical infrastructure, expensive consultants and escalating equipment costs – have to struggle along on a fifth of the budget.

The hospitals (the bit the private sector wants, because the technology and infrastructure are invaluable) are already answerable to the CCGs, and GP practices are being rapidly privatised. It is entirely in the interests of people like Virgin Health in the GP sector to find hospitals ‘guilty’ on the food issue, as hospital insolvency (and subsequent ‘rescue’ by them at a rock-bottom prices) are precisely what they want.

The Mail reports this morning that standards will be monitored by the Care Quality Commission as part of routine hospital inspections. If a trust breaches these standards, they could be fined by the local CCG.

The Dacre Mail trumpets, of course, is that Hunt’s insistence on higher quality food is all down to its fearless campaign about hospital meals. But here are the facts that suggest hospitals are being asked to do the loaves and fishes miracle, minus only Jesus of Nazareth:

* Around one in five trusts have reduced spending on food at some point since 2005, because rising costs alongside static real-terms budgets forced them to do so.

* St George’s Hospital in South London used to spend £6.67 a day….now it spends £3.11 a day.

* The Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in West Sussex cut daily spending by 65% over five years. Today it too spends under £4 per patient.

* The cutting trend, however, has recently accelerated. The Daily Telegraph reported last January that one in three hospital trusts have cut spending on patients’ meals in the past year, and that some trusts have cut expenditure by two-thirds. The Tory-leaning paper fully accepted that the cause of the quality fall-off was ‘NHS finance managers facing growing pressure to reduce costs’.

Pressure from…..why, Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.
Says a senior informant in the administration of public health:
“We’ve done some projections, and in our Trust, the costs of food and labour to reach these standards will mean spending over ten times more than we do today. That simply can’t be done without getting into difficulties….but if we don’t do it, we’re in breach of our CCG contract.’
The Whistle-blower’s claims make sense in the light of historical NHS statistics: Lambeth primary care trust has cut daily food spending from £15.26 per patient per day to £4.89 in recent years, while Mytton Oak Community Unit and Orpington Hospital spent £2.07 and £2.55 respectively. All three would struggle to meet Hunt’s new standards without further monies being made available.
The Hunt strategy remains the same: force hospitals to do the impossible, and then organise private sector ‘rescues’ when it all goes mammories skywards. So all-pervasive are private health interests in Parliament, it would be impossible for any minister to behave otherwise…and keep the job. Hunt’s own second cousin Baroness Bottomley is the chief spokesperson for the private sector in the Lords. The following facts are equally condemnatory:
* According to figures compiled by Social Investigations, an independent research organisation, 64 MPs have financial links with companies involved in private healthcare. Of them 52 are Conservative, nine are Labour and three are Lib Dem. There are also 142 peers with interests.
* Private Health companies have donated £750,000 to Conservative funds since 2010
* In November 2009, John Nash, the chairman of Care UK, gave £21,000 to fund Andrew Lansley’s personal office. Five months later, Lansley became Health Secretary
* Last March, Jeremy Hunt revealed plans to sell off the National Health Service in-house recruitment agency, NHS Professionals, before the election.
This is just one more example of government corporatocracy. In this context, does anyone GAF about Douglas Carcrash defecting to Ukip because the Tories don’t deliver on their promises? Not really: Dougie is in favour of immediate NHS privatisation.