Wayne Reed didn't join the NHS for the glamour but, as he tells Katey Pigden, he doesn't think there's anywhere better to work
Wayne Reed, catering services manager at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has always been up for a challenge. "Why opt for an easy life?" he says.
Reed oversees a team of 63 for the catering operation at 1,000-bed hospital the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), including the Great North Children's Hospital. He took on the role when he joined the hospital in June 2007, having previously worked as a lecturer at Derwentside College, where he taught hospitality, tourism and travel. He also previously worked as a hotel services manager at East Durham & Houghall Community College for more than 10 years. But he feels he has come full circle with his current role.
"I started off as an assistant cook in a hospital in Durham when I was 18. I'm revisiting my past," he says. "With public service, you know what you're going to get and it's not always going to be glamorous, but I don't think there's anywhere better to work."
The hospital currently operates a 14-day menu cycle, but is considering adopting James Martin's approach of a seven-day menu, following the chef's talk about his Operation Hospital Food at this year's Hospital Caterers Association conference.
Reed says: "I think James Martin is doing a fantastic job. I can certainly see the benefits of a seven-day menu; 14 days might be too much. People are creatures of habit. We've just started the journey and it will take about six or seven months to complete. We need to get everyone involved. We've seen it on TV, now we need to see it in action here."
Reed and his team work hard to put patients first. He says: "I tell my team if we make a difference to at least one patient a day, that will eventually make a real difference overall."
Around midday he has a catch-up meeting with the head chef to discuss the kitchen capital development plan and review the timeframe of the new build. The plan is to remodel the current kitchen so it can produce up to 1,750 covers per mealtime. The project will cost in excess of £500,000 and will commence in late 2016, if agreed.
Further meetings are then arranged, before he has to hit the books for an hour to study for his professional doctorate, which he is undertaking at Sunderland University. Reed is looking into ways to support dementia nutrition, while raising awareness of the food journey for dementia patients within acute NHS hospitals. He is developing a new product as part of his studies: Nutrimat, a resource to support dementia patients to make their own food choices. He is currently in the write-up stage of his thesis.
"The food journey of dementia patients is high on the agenda. It's important to support autonomy and improve that food journey for them. It's about trying different techniques to communicate with patients in order to understand their wants and needs," he says.
After his study time, he goes back to the ward to discuss an out-of-hours hot food menu for patients. "I like to see patients. They are honest and they want to see improvements. It's not perfect throughout NHS catering, but we try our best in Newcastle. We consult with patients and find out what their favourite meals are."
He adds: "Food is a very important part of the recovery process. It's essential for us to offer food that is familiar and comforting." Dishes such as cottage pie, fish and chips and roast dinners are available. Bread and butter pudding is also back on the menu.
At around 2.30pm he leaves the hospital to attend a nutritional steering committee and returns about two hours later to respond to more emails. At 4.45pm there's a hygiene inspection, internal audit and an assessment of due diligence. He signs out of the hospital an hour later and makes it home by 6.30pm.
But he doesn't stop there - out come the study books again before he finally switches off for the day. To clear his head, he goes out for a long walk with his partner Linda and their goldendoodle Harry.