HCA Reacts to Prince Charles Letter

The Hospital Caterers Association has reiterated its call for the Government to ensure the most vulnerable are given the best possible care.

The Association makes the call in response to correspondence from Prince Charles to a former Health Minister, published by the Guardian following a court case earlier this year, over the state of hospital food.

Prince Charles was responding the government data that showed in 2006-07, 12, 486, 670 meals were wasted in the NHS, equivalent to just under nine per-cent of all meals served in the 12-month period.

He urged the Government to reduce ‘criminal wastage’ by sourcing from local farmers instead of serving reheated meals. In a letter in July 2008 to the then-Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, Prince Charles cited an initiative at the Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea, where fresh ingredients were cooked on site, and urged the Government to replicate it elsewhere.

The Prince referenced HCA member Mike Duckett, as the ‘quite brilliant’ head of catering at the hospital for the use of seasonal, fresh (and wherever possible organic) food, Prince Charles applauded Mike’s approach, which has benefited health, plus minimised waste.

However, the HCA believes, if standards are to be truly raised across the board, nutritional standards must be in place and a commitment made to a minimum spend on every meal.

Caterers must have budgetary parity and must be allowed to take responsibility for the whole of the ward service to ensure consistency and support for a patient’s total food and drink provision, wherever they are and by whatever method the food is produced, anywhere in the UK.

Phil Shelley, HCA honorary national chair, said: “Our aims as an Association for the coming year are clear: putting the patient first in our daily routines, whether that is in staffing structures, financial controls, menu planning, bedside booklets or procurement of food and equipment.

We must find a way within our own environment to be part of the clinical decision making. We also need to reflect that the only way we can improve the patient experience is through their meals and the caterer is nearer the front line than any other facilities service that we provide.”

Our focus is on the ‘Last 9 Yards’, spearheading campaigns and initiatives that will enable hospital caterers to not only continue to achieve those high standards but most importantly, safeguard the nutritional care of all of our patients.

“There is no doubt that hospital food and catering services will continue to be in the spotlight as patients’ expectations continue to rise and the NHS is used as a political weapon. The Government must act to support our campaign to ensure those most vulnerable are given the best possible care.”