TV CHEF and campaigner, James Martin, is once again taking up his tools and dissecting the issue of hospital food. Now in its third series, Operation Hospital Food (BBC 1), shows him on ‘a mission to transform the standards of the nation’s hospital food’. The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) has issued a statement, welcoming the ongoing efforts and the profile-raising of the current issues.
Commenting on the start of the new series, Andy Jones, HCA Chair says: “I am delighted to see James Martin back on our screens with ‘Operation Hospital Food’… The new series is also focusing on the serious issues facing hospital caterers including the lack of investment in hospital kitchens and the limited food costs that many caterers are working with. With James stressing the significant contribution good food makes to patient wellbeing, nutritional care and recovery, the important underlying message to the Government and NHS Trust Boards is that nutritious, wholesome food is the simplest and best form of medicine. As such, it should be given far higher priority throughout the health care sector”.
He continues, saying that: “The HCA is aware that not all hospitals are providing the highest standard of patient food service as they would like to but in many cases, often for reasons outside of their control. It is important to recognise that it is not the type of food service a hospital operates that is a barrier to quality or good service. No matter whether a hospital has a traditional on site cooking facility or if it operates a cook chill or cook freeze system, all can have their difficulties if they are not funded correctly. Whilst the HCA accepts that many of the images of plated food taken by patients and shown on the programme appeared well below standard, in some instances pictures had been taken of pureed food for patients whose illnesses can cause swallowing difficulties. Often this food, whilst moulded to resemble as closely as possible solid versions, there is inevitably some reduction in presentation and appearance”.
“In order to address a range of quality issues and establish uniform standards across the country, the HCA is calling for a minimum food spend per patient per day as part of a campaign for the introduction of mandatory national nutritional standards for hospital food. We also want to stop CIP’s (Cost Improvement Programmes) being applied to catering as short term solutions versus more effective long term funding."
The key points that both James and the HCA want communicate are that it needs genuine passion and commitment from the board down and the caterer to bring about real change and improved standards: “As a highly respected chef, James has helped to ensure that the subject of hospital food and its role as a vital part of a patient’s recovery plan is kept top of mind for the Government and NHS Trusts”.