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NHS Bringing Back In-House Catering: A Vital & Sustainable Shift

NHS catering has been outsourced since the 1980s, but following the fatal listeria outbreak in 2020, caused by external food contamination, hospitals are looking to return to in-house catering. This marks a significant move towards enhancing service quality and sustainability.

After a successful trial, Imperial College Healthcare Trust has decided to permanently manage previously outsourced processes internally. It serves as a potential model for other trusts, signaling the start of the NHS returning to in-house catering.


Benefits of returning to in-house catering

Quality control

By returning to in-house catering, hospitals are able to monitor quality control and react quickly to changing needs and dietary requirements.

The listeria scandal exposed fatal flaws in the NHS’s supply chain, resulting in the tragic deaths of six patients who consumed listeria-contaminated sandwiches while under hospital care. Although all companies involved went into liquidation and ceased trading, this tragedy could be prevented with proper internal quality control measures in place.

Improved efficiencies

In-house catering means staff can react quickly to patients’ changing needs and dietary requirements, to better cater for individuals' religious requirements, allergies and intolerances.

Improved nutrition

Returning to in-house catering enables hospitals to move beyond supplying cold food, or reheating pre-prepared meals; they can provide hot, appealing, healthy and well-balanced meals instead. By supplying fresh hot meals, listeria outbreaks can be prevented.



Hospital catering was originally outsourced to cut costs, but bringing it back in-house actually has significant sustainable and financial gains. This includes reducing transport costs, lessening the carbon footprint and environmental impact, as well as improving quality and minimising costly waste.

Better working conditions and satisfaction

Imperial College Healthcare Trust found that by bringing catering services in-house, they achieved higher service standards, better staff working conditions and satisfaction, and greater operational efficiency.

It sends a strong message about the value of investing in the workforce and internal capabilities, and marks a significant step forward in providing high standards and enhancing the overall patient care experience.

How MCR Systems can help

MCR Systems can help manage in-house catering services, streamlining operations through efficient transaction processing, stock management and real-time data analytics. Making it possible to improve cost tracking, reduce waste, and optimise menu planning based on demand.

Our EPOS systems can support the NHS's commitment to quality and efficiency by offering insights into consumer preferences, enabling better decision-making and boosting patient and staff satisfaction with catering services.

To book your free EPOS system demo, call our expert team on 0116 299 7000, or email


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