Wessex Branch News

From Chris Lay

Wessex Branch has continued to meet via MS Teams and has been delighted to be joined over the past months by our National Chair Brian Robb, Past National Chair Craig Smith, National Secretary Janice Gillan, and NHS E&I’s Phil Shelley.

Wessex is indebted to all of them for the time they have afforded our meetings and discussions, particularly around the topics of governance, NHS Food Review, and Chef of the Year.

We finally managed to meet face-to-face; well some of us did. We had our annual social/BBQ at Stella Gardener’s campsite in Whiteparish. Those that attended had a very pleasant lazy afternoon tea and evening BBQ interspersed with giant jenga, croquet, and a drink or two. Some even camped for a night or two. Thanks go to our generous patrons for the food (NH Case, Harfield Tableware and Bidfood), for the drinks (Hobart), and for the snacks (Calbee), to Stella for hosting, and to Jason and Toby Warrington for their skills behind the barbecue.

On top of this, we also managed to help host the southern heat of NHS Chef of the Year at Bournemouth and Poole College. Big thanks to our very own Pat Cooper for working so hard on not only this but also our local Salon Culinaire. More details and pictures on this to follow.

Retiring after 42 years

Stella Gardener, Trust Catering Manager, recently retired from Southern Heath following a 42-year career predominantly in healthcare catering. Stella started her career with a private contractor called Sutcliffe Catering and worked for them until 1991. During this period she worked at the Independent Broadcasting Association at Crawley Court, Winchester, before moving to Esso Refinery. In 1991, she moved to Southampton General Hospital as an Executive Lease Manager, which meant that although she was a private contractor, she managed the NHS catering staff and all patient feeding.

In 2001, Stella moved to an area management role looking after hospital catering and other services along the south coast, before a spell with Portsmouth NHS and NHS Property Services. She arrived at the Trust in 2016 to manage catering services, making great strides to improve patient feeding and leaving the service in great shape.

From an HCA (Wessex Branch) perspective, Stella’s first Conference/Forum was at Harrogate in 1993. Following this, she joined the HCA; however, she was only allowed to join as an Associate because she was a contractor (how times have changed). After a couple of years Stella thought she would like to be more involved so had to write to Council to ask them to consider her application for Full membership. She did meet the criteria but, sad to say, she wasn’t overly welcomed into the fold by many members. One hopes that times have changed for the better because we all have a part to play whatever sector we represent.

Suffice to say, Stella offers a somewhat different and better welcome to new and prospective members to that received back in the day.

Stella has served as Branch Chairman and Branch Secretary (as well as being co-opted onto a couple of working parties) and who could forget her tenure as 2012 Conference Secretary. She has been a huge asset to the HCA and, in particular, the Wessex Branch.

Stella has accepted Life membership of the Branch, so although we will not lose touch, her vast day-to-day experience and expertise will be sorely missed.

Stella is a friend and ally to many. She has a wealth of knowledge about hospital catering and will be greatly missed by all members of the Wessex Branch. On behalf of the Branch, we thank Stella for all her work and support to the Branch and wish her all the luck in the world for her retirement, which is very well deserved.

Andy Whittingham, Scott Jones and Chris Lay

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