§ Tim Loughton
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement regarding recent changes to NHS food menus; and how much has been paid to outside consultants to advise on menus since 1997. 
§ Ms Blears
The better hospital food programme, announced in the NHS Plan, is designed to improve the quality and availability of food in hospitals. It is a long-term programme, the first stage of which requires hospitals, by 31 December 2001: to ensure that their meal 1041W services meet or exceed required standards and meet nutritional requirements; to provide a 24-hour catering service so that patients can obtain food when they need it; to adopt the national design for menus; and to provide on their menus dishes designed for the national health service by the team of leading chefs.
£401,334 has been paid to outside organisations in connection with the better hospital food programme. This has covered design costs for the new menu and implementation support pack, the establishment and full nutritional analysis of the NHS dish selector, recipe development and testing work and the development and management of the website. This equates to slightly more than £1,000 per NHS trust, and is a fraction of the NHS budget for catering. Additionally, central arrangement of much of this work will save the costs of duplicating work across the NHS.
Details of any payments made to outside consultants by individual hospitals are not available centrally.