Health minister John Denham has told the Healthcare Estates and Facilities Management Association in Telford that catering and hospital cleanliness will be subject to higher standards and tougher inspection by the Audit Commission and Commission for Health Improvement.

There will be an 'audit'of food services and a patients food group to 'oversee the process of improving catering in NHS hospitals'.The Liberal Democrats last week initiated a parliamentary debate on cleanliness in which junior health minister Gisela Stuart admitted that 'in some cases' standards could have fallen because of market testing, although quality should have been taken into account.

See politics, page 21.