NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) has become the first NHS hospital in the UK to achieve a prestigious award for its food.
NUH has achieved the Soil Association’s Gold Food for Life Catering Mark – the highest level at which the standard is awarded.
The Catering Mark is awarded for serving fresh, healthy meals made with local, seasonal and organic ingredients and provides staff, patients and visitors at City Hospital and Queens Medical Centre with a guarantee that the food they are eating is prepared with fresh ingredients which are free from harmful additives and trans fats.
Providing good, nutritious food hospital food for patients was highlighted in key guidance (known as CQUINs) for NHS commissioners in December 2013 and hospitals are now being encouraged to ensure their food meets standards, such as the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark. The CQUIN was celebrated at an event hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales in January 2014, which was attended by representatives from NUH.
The Catering Mark was launched by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2009 and now accredits more than 160 million meals a year across schools, hospitals, nurseries, care homes and workplaces. It recognises food providers who serve food which meet high standards of traceability, freshness and provenance; providing an independently audited framework for hospitals to take steps to improve the food they serve to patients, staff and visitors. The Gold Catering Mark means that at least 15% of total ingredient spend is on organic ingredients, and menus make use of ingredients produced locally and in the UK.
The importance of providing good, nutritious hospital food for patients has recently been highlighted by NHS England's 2014/15 key guidance for commissioners and care providers. The guidance now includes a new hospital food goal (the Hospital Food CQUIN Exemplar), and cites the Catering Mark as a way to raise food standards.
Switching to local suppliers has been cost neutral and allowed the Trust to invest £2m per year in local businesses. 77% of NUHT’s raw ingredient spend is on local ingredients, with meat, fresh produce, bakery products and milk all sourced from within the local region or adjacent county: For every £1 spent on a Food for Life Catering Mark menu, a social return of more than £3 results from that investment – mostly in the form of new jobs and contracts for local food producers and farmers.
NUH are able to provide patients, staff and visitors with quality meals at an ingredient cost price of £4.53 per patient per day – which is below the national average for patient day costs.
Chris Neale, Central Food Production Manager at NUH says: “Having a flexible menu and working in partnership with local suppliers enables us to produce food with fresh ingredients when they are available, and take them off our menu out of season. As we are such a large organisation, this provides stability to the local economy, and supports British supply chains.”
Rob Sexton, Chief Executive of Soil Association Certification, said: "The Gold Catering Mark is a fantastic achievement, and it’s great to see NUH gaining recognition for serving fresh meals made with seasonal, local and organic ingredients. It is becoming increasingly recognised that fresh, nutritious food plays an important part in improving patient care and meeting public health outcomes. Serving menus to Gold Standards helps to build the skills of catering staff and reduce carbon emissions. Nottingham University Hospital Trust is leading the way in the drive to improve food culture in our hospitals.”
NUH Chief Executive Peter Homa said: “Becoming the first Trust in the country to achieve this prestigious award is an outstanding achievement and testament to the hard work of our catering team. We are committed to sourcing ingredients locally to ensure we get the freshest seasonal produce for our patients, visitors and staff. Good nutrition and hydration is an important part of our patients’ recovery and remains a priority for us at NUH.”