A school meals provider has been slammed for asking for annual medical reports to prove children need special diets.
Mhairi Mason, from Chesham, told the Bucks Free Press she was concerned that the policy by Impact Food Group, which she says has been recently introduced to her child’s school in the town, is a “drain on valuable NHS services which are already stretched”.
She said: “I agree that it is reasonable that a school meal provider asks for a medical report or letter stating that the child needs a special diet.
“However, Impact Food Group is now asking that parents obtain a new medical report every 12 months to state that their child needs a special diet.
“I believe this is unnecessary and is a drain on NHS services. As we all know, the NHS is always under pressure, with long waiting lists for treatment, and especially so at this time where many NHS staff have been redeployed out of their usual roles to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Ms Mason says she has emailed the company four times to ask why this policy has been put in place.
She said: “I had one email reply which explained that they needed to ensure children’s safety around special diets, but did not answer my questions regarding the NHS.
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“I had one further email to say I would receive a response from the health and safety manager, but I have not received any further communication.
“My questions and concerns are: Was this policy was written in consultation with the local NHS services who the company expect to provide the reports?
“Do these NHS services feel it is medically necessary to review every child annually? I ask this question because my experience of NHS services is that they see a patient, assess, diagnose and provide treatment and advice and then discharge.
“In my experience these services do not routinely keep patients on caseload to review annually as they do not have the capacity.
“Also, have these NHS services agreed to provide these reports? Have these NHS services agreed this is a good use of their resources and does it fit with their model of treatment and discharge?
“Have Impact Food Group fully considered the impact that their policy will have on local NHS services and service users, and that the repeated evidence that their company is asking for will be a drain on our local NHS services?
“Does Impact Food Group feel that a safe diet could still be provided for a child, with medical evidence provided once, with any changes to diet also needing medical evidence?”
She added: “I phoned my child’s dietician for a new medical report and I was told I would need to be referred again. I think it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
“NHS services are stretched as it is.”
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Impact Food Group said the medical diet policy is “common across the industry” and its main priority is to “ensure all children are safe and healthy”.
A spokesman said: “The safety of our customers is always our top priority.
“Our medical diet policy has been designed in conjunction with expert nutritionists and is common across our industry.
“Children’s allergies are known to change so we require current information for those with complex allergies.
“We understand the pressure that the NHS is under at the moment, and we’re hugely grateful to them for keeping us safe during this difficult time, but we just want to ensure all children are safe and healthy.”