NHS & celebrity chefs | the same shit policies come round again and again.

If you follow public policy long enough you see the same shit policies over and over again.

This isn’t surprising. After a while an administration runs out of steam, runs out of ideas. They start asking Civil Servants what they should do, and Civil Servants tend to give the same advice to Ministers regardless of political complexion.

The pasty tax was offered to Blair and Brown who both turned it down before Osborne fell for it. Universal Credits was a Gordon Brown policy that Ian Duncan Smith fished out of the waste paper basket.

The Johnson administration deserve a prize for running out of ideas faster than any previous Government. Only 4 weeks into his reign as PM Johnson has announced a review of hospital food, led by a celebrity chef:

This, of course, isn’t the first time a Government has made the same announcement. This is the same policy initiative under David Cameron, which had a tie in BBC TV series:

This is an identical review announced in the dying days of the Brown Government:

Heston’s main recommendation apparently was seaweed. Only 6 months earlier NHS North West had hired Simon Rimmer from Saturday Kitchen to review their hospital food:

This is the Blair Government, scrapping their celebrity chef hospital food review only 4 years earlier:

This wasn’t the only celebrity chef review of hospital food that Blair commissioned. Anton Edelman did exactly the same review in 2001, which apparently vanished without trace.

Albert Roux led in identical review for the Major Government in 1995. This was before the internet, and I don’t have a press cutting for it, sadly. The Roux review did however lead to a response by the National Audit Office:


The Roux review was part of the Citizens Charter, the 2nd most important policy initiative of the Major Government after the Cones Hotline. Or maybe the Cones Hotline was part of the Citizen’s Charter? The whole Major Government seems now like a grey blur.

I don’t know why Maggie Thatcher or Jim Callaghan didn’t hire a celeb chef to review hospital food, but both of them strike me as people who would prefer Fanny Craddock’s spotted dick.

All of these policy initiatives failed, and cost loads of money, but that doesn’t stop Governments endlessly recycling the same policy announcements., and making the same mistakes. From Major onwards the Government has announced on average a new hospital food initiative every year; new recipes, local sourcing, better procurement, higher nutritional standards.

The failure of every single one of these initiatives can be summed up in one sentence:

Gimmicky top down initiatives don’t work.

Sadly that doesn’t stop Governments trying. The same daft ideas just come round and round. “improving hospital food”, “reducing government red tape”, “simplifying the tax and benefit system” and “cutting crime by increasing prison places”. Getting celeb businessmen to advise Government is equally daft; Digby Jones advising the NHS on becoming more business like, Sir Phillip Green advising how Government could become more efficient, or Alan Sugar advising Gordon Brown on stuff.

I give you a binding commitment that if elected Prime Minister I will not commission a celebrity chef to review hospital food. I may however re-introduce Fanny Craddock’s spotted dick.


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