Don't drop standards in the face of spending cuts, was the key message at the Hospital Caterers' Association (HCA) conference in Blackpool last week.
Catering and hotel service managers within the NHS were encouraged to rise above the current pressures and challenges faced in the public sector, at the 2010 annual conference, entitled ‘Raising the Bar'.
Among the speakers at the event was Professor Rob Smith from the Department of Health. He emphasised the need for the NHS to maintain the strides it had made to date in patient satisfaction with hospital food after 80% of people now perceive hospital food as at least ‘good'.
He said that despite the efficiency savings being called for, it was vital not to allow standards to slide backwards.
Andrew Jones, director of allied clinical and facilities services at Chesterfield Royal Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, agreed. In particular, he stressed four key areas to keep nutrition and hydration high on the agenda: good practice; less waste; technology; and collaboration between all professional teams.
Also on hand was Daniel Bibi, who previously spoke at the conference at the age of 16 when he spoke of his personal experiences with hospital food as a long-term patient. Now training to be a doctor, Bibi returned to offer a slightly different perspective on how food services might be improved. He suggested that rather than go to extravagant lengths there should be more concentration on getting the basics right.
Bibi said that food in hospitals often appeared as an automated process and the passion of preparing good food was not evident. He suggested that more emphasis should be placed on making the meal experience more appealing.
Kevin Wallace, the national chairman of the HCA, said: "Big issues continue to affect the future of each and every one of us within health care catering and the NHS. Whilst we must continually aim for higher levels of service for our patients to meet their expectations, our future will present significant challenges as public sector spending falls increasingly under the spotlight.
"Belts will need to be tightened as major savings and economies are sought across the NHS regardless of which Party takes office after the General Election. The challenge will definitely be on how we can continue to ‘raise the bar' for healthcare catering services within a National Health Service that is increasingly performance led but more commercially focused than ever before".
The HCA 2010 National Award Winners:
• Oustanding Service Award - Anne Shore, HCA national vice president
• 2010 Caterer of the Year - David Elsom, Trust Catering Manager, North Lincolnshire & Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
• Catering Team of the Year 2010 - Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust
• HCA Chairman's Choice 2010 - HCA Wessex Branch
• National Patient Safetyagency - Hydration Best Practice Award 2010 - West Park Rehabilitation Hospital
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