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Compass healthcare MD wants to ‘shine a light’ on importance of food & nutrition in hospitals

13th Jan 2023 - 04:00
Russell Blake, managing director of healthcare for Compass Group UK & Ireland
The new national standards of hospital food for patients, staff and visitors give us all an opportunity to ‘shine a light’ on the importance of food and nutrition says Russell Blake, managing director of healthcare for Compass Group UK & Ireland.

We have been working closely with NHS England to contribute to the standards –our dietitians have been part of the working group and as Medirest we have been involved in the highly valuable work of the NHS Chef of the Year competition.

It is widely acknowledged that food has a huge impact on our wellbeing, especially in relation to NHS patients. However, importantly the new standards also emphasise the need for quality provision across staff and visitor catering – again critically important to the clinical team who deliver care, especially shift workers and for those coming to hospitals, who need energy and comfort.

We operate hundreds of retail outlets and staff and visitor restaurants within hospitals and over the past few years we have invested heavily in technology, menus and innovations in this area. Our recent trials with Dr Rupy Aujla in several of our hospital restaurants is an example of taking this agenda to the next level - together we created menus to bring pop ups to five of our partner hospitals and received excellent feedback.

One of the commitments is around organisations having a designated board director responsible for food (nutrition and safety), who will also report back at board level. This is something we have championed for some time. Having it regularly raised at this level can only be a good thing.

And I couldn’t agree more that these changes must be led by effective leadership and meaningfully monitored so that we can reflect on what’s working and where improvements can be made. Where we work with clients that have this high-level, consistent approach, we do see that the various teams work most smoothly together.

Other standards demand food and drink strategies; dedicated food service dietitians; and investment in staff to deliver these services. These are significant and constructive steps, in creating a strategic way we can standardise and improve services across the NHS, building on the approaches and success taking place currently. Importantly, there is also a focus on sustainability, including the reduction of waste.

As an outsourced specialist, I believe we can bring valuable expertise and support to hospital teams. We endeavour to have a partnership approach and when our team is truly imbedded in hospital services, working alongside clinical teams and with strong support at senior or board level - this is when we see our services truly having an impact and succeeding.

There is no doubt a joined-up approach is one of the key factors to success - we would always recommend setting up a food and drink steering group with representation from different disciplines to help the process, bring different perspectives and professions to deliver on implementation.

We support the NHS Chef of the Year competition and feel this drives forward standards and helps chefs across the NHS share ideas, knowledge and expertise. Our Medirest culinary director Bruce Toon has been driving this agenda alongside Nick Vadis, culinary director of our parent company Compass Group UK & I, who is also Chef Ambassador for the NHS Supply Chain.

Together they have been instrumental in releasing a lot of useful materials and support to those working in hospitals. 

There is never going to be a one size fits all solution, but I believe these guidelines provide a framework that will unite all NHS food provision to create overarching higher standards for those we serve.

Our teams remain committed to supporting the NHS and its agenda of continuous improvement in ensuring patients, staff and visitors have access to high quality, nutritious and sustainable food.

Written by
Edward Waddell