Fresh, local ingredients could save the NHS millions of pounds, a hospital trust has claimed.
Catering managers at Nottingham City Hospital and the Queen's Medical Centre have made the switch to a menu of fresh food, sourced locally, which the Trust says represents a daily plate saving of £2.50 a day.
John Hughes, the Trust catering manager, estimates that up to £400m could be put back into the NHS every year if the initiative were rolled out nationwide.
The hospital is supporting dozens of local farmers with a many saved from going bust. Since adopting the scheme the food on the menu travels less distance than many of the 7,000 patients and in its first year, a million pounds has been put into the local economy by the farm-to-plate scheme. It is estimated that this is likely to double over the next 12 months.
Mr Hughes told the BBC that he liked the idea of getting his beef from down the road rather than South America but expressed concerns that it would be too expensive and that there wouldn't be enough produce to meet the Trust's needs.
"I was happy to be proved wrong on both counts," he said. "This was one of the tough decisions I think we'd be cheered to the rafters for taking. It doesn't actually cost any more and you are actually going to invest in local communities and the local suppliers you want to develop. On top of that it's actually going to save the NHS millions of pounds a year."
Now 90% of the fresh food the hospitals use comes from the East Midlands and it is the only trust to receive a Soil Association award for its work from Prince Charles. Hughes says that since his team took over running the kitchen from private contractors, they now have more control over quality and price.
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