Mung beans, couscous and very cheesy sauce were ingredients in one of the last initiatives rustled up by the government before prime minister Tony Blair went to the polls for a 7 June election.

The last supper - or NHS menu, as it is formally known - was unveiled on Tuesday, amid a flurry of voter-friendly NHS initiatives vying for attention in the hours before Mr Blair asked the Queen for a dissolution of Parliament.

On the same day the government promised a£105m handout for hospitals to spend on new equipment. The cash injection followed an even more votegrabbing boost for maternity services unveiled last week.

The£40m overhaul of hospital food - overseen by television celebrity chef Loyd Grossman - will mean a national menu design and a standard menu, launched on Tuesday as a cookery book.

Each trust is expected to have one of eight 'chef 's specials' in place by August.

The complete menu of 43 dishes - which include salad of spinach, tuna, egg and mung beans, navarin of lamb with couscous and grilled vegetables, cauliflower and very cheesy sauce, and posh pear and chocolate crumble - should be available by the end of the year.

But Pat Miller, chair of the Hospital Caterers Association, said the government investment would not cover the costs of some of the dishes. She said: 'Some of them are very expensive and use expensive cuts of meat and it is going to prove quite difficult for us.'

Meanwhile, the cash boost for medical equipment will mean an average£500,000 will go to each acute trust.

Larger teaching hospitals will receive up to£1m. These include Central Manchester and Manchester University Children's trust, Guy's and St Thomas' trust, King's Healthcare trust, Leeds Teaching Hospitals trust, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals trust, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals trust, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals trust, Southampton University Hospitals trust and University Hospitals of Leicester trust.

The cash will be distributed according to consultant numbers, although 'nursing directors will hold it in a pot and clinical teams will bid for it', a Department of Health spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said health secretary Alan Milburn's announcement matched his previous commitment to 'devolving responsibilities' - the NHS shakeup that will see health authority numbers slashed and regional offices abolished under a secondterm Labour government.

Mr Milburn said: 'It is right that doctors and nurses make decisions about the top priorities. It is right that the power and resources are at the NHS front line.

From today, frontline doctors and nurses will be preparing their plans on how this money can be spent wisely and well on the equipment that can best benefit patients.'

Speculation about the Labour Party's manifesto suggests it is likely to make general pronouncements about improving health rather than the explicit references such as that on waiting lists in 1997.

But the party is expected to include a commitment to new legislation forcing all HAs to make available new drugs recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in its manifesto.

With Parliament due to be dissolved on Friday, those campaigning for the survival of community health councils look set to win a victory.

The government will only be able to pass the Health and Social Care Bill if it gives up on plans to reverse its defeat in the Lords over abolition of CHCs.

Instead, the Lords' amendments are likely to stand, meaning that ministers will not have the power to impose care trusts on unwilling partners, nor have the freedom they wanted on the use of patient data, and CHCs will survive with different powers.