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Chair of Hospital Food Review wants to ‘drive hospital food standards forward’

6th Jul 2022 - 04:00
When he spoke at the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) annual Leadership & Development Forum in Liverpool recently, Phil Shelley urged delegates to begin to switch their focus as the review’s impact begins to be felt.

Now working for the NHS as senior operational and policy manager with NHS Improvement, he said: “The review is a three-year programme and over the last year much of the focus has been on recommendations related to the catering workforce, the introduction of technology and at ways we can tackle food waste and work more sustainably.

“Today it’s about enforcing standards and the way forward to improving hospital food for patients, staff and visitors. There has to be a continual process; previous efforts to improve hospital food have seemed a bit one-off.

“It’s different this time, because we now have the backing of ministers and the Department of Health and Social Care, which is very important in helping us. And if our teams really begin to believe in the changes we are making then anything is possible.”

He pointed out that although the review was primarily about England, he had made sure that colleagues from NHS Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales were invited to have input into it and they had ‘contributed very valuably’.

And he said that since the Hospital Food Review was published, with its recommendations to improve staff and patient health and wellbeing through hospital food, there had been ‘significant progress’, with trusts, FM providers and suppliers working in partnership.

Working alongside him in helping to maintain momentum is Emma Brookes, head of soft FM strategy and operations, who also chairs the Healthcare Food Standards. Together they are working closely to ensure that not only do the eight recommendations in the Review actually happen, but that they are incorporated in the standards as well.

Speaking after this year’s forum, Phil said: “We are both committed to hospital food improvement programmes, providing quality food for patients, staff and visitors.”

But he is also very aware that two years of handling the pandemic have had an impact on what trusts have been able to achieve so far.

“A stronger environment needs to be created for the recommendations to take hold and to do this, there needs to be strong leadership and involvement from a committed team that will take the review forward. What has been vital throughout conversations is understanding everyone’s perspectives, whether they are working in the NHS or providing the tools for our services.

“Each country is at a different stage throughout the services we provide, so sharing knowledge and experiences provide a distinct advantage. This has been particularly apparent with planning on food waste management, food standards documentation, 24/7 services and retail opportunities.”

A key part of embedding the review recommendations has been the appointment of an Expert Group of caterers, dietitians and clinical staff.

Each expert group member has been set tasks that involve the close teams in their specialty, for example the dietitians work not only with their professional body, the British Dietetic Association (BDA), but with speech and language therapy colleagues and nutrition suppliers.

He concludes: “I am very optimistic that progress can be made. I see so much pride and loyalty during our site visits: no matter what the situation, our caterers are proud of what they are trying to do.”

Written by
Edward Waddell