The Hospital Food Review - HCA Response

View from the Hospital Caterers Association Chairman

Craig Smith

Craig Smith

Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) Chair
Board Member Hospital Food Review
26th October 2020

The Hospital Food Review, published today, sets out new national standards for improving hospital food. It establishes eight recommendations to improve staff and patient health, and wellbeing through hospital food. These recommendations span catering staff, nutrition and hydration, food safety, facilities, technology, standards, sustainability, and a fit for the future approach. These recommendations are excellent, and we fully support them. Yet we simply can’t move forward without capital investment in our hospital catering operations, and we urge the Government to release details of funding plans to support these initiatives.

We recognise that every model of food delivery is important, and I am delighted to see the review has adopted many of the HCA’s core platforms and puts food at the heart of the service. It recognises and agrees with our campaigns such as the Last Nine Yards, Power of 3, Nutrition and Hydration 24/7,  the focus on the patient experience and the underlying need to ‘get it right’ at the point of service. Most importantly, like the HCA, it recognises that food is a fundamental and important part of a patient’s recovery.

The review recommends every hospital should have at least one member of the HCA, that catering budgets should be ringfenced, and leadership engagement from executive stakeholders is paramount. The HCA endorses these recommendations. We already know from our members, that Trusts which have a high level of chief executive engagement have the opportunity to deliver some of the best catering services. For this to work at its most successful, food has to be integrated in the whole life of the hospital, from patients to staff to visitors. Food must be considered part of a patients care and treatment. Good food and drink should be prioritised with adequate budgets and support.

The Government recently announced a £3.7 billion fund to deliver 40 hospitals across England by 2030 which will include a focus on 21st-century catering facilities including restaurants, central kitchens, patient dining spaces and ward kitchens. We urge our members to bid for any funding which is available to help improve their catering operations. 

Supporting our food hero’s

There are more than 6,000 catering staff working in the NHS. We must all demonstrate that a career in hospital catering is a rewarding one. We know caterers really can make a difference and a positive impact on a patients stay. We need to incentivise and embrace being a hospital caterer as a career choice.

Food As Medicine

‘The Last Nine Yards’ of the foods journey to the patient’s table is critical in ensuring that the meal experience is enjoyable. This calls for teamwork and the HCA strongly supports the ‘Power of Three’ principle of the Nurse, the Clinical Support and the Caterer. We simply have to get it right at the point of service.

Safe and sound

We must not lose sight of the reason this review was called for in the first place. The HCA welcomes the call for appropriate training for everyone involved in the food service. Recognising the importance of food, and its role in wellbeing, and how food safety needs to be considered at all times.

Bricks and Mortar

Without adequate kitchens it is impossible to prepare food safely. The case for investment in hospital kitchens has been made and this is a once in a generation opportunity to get kitchens back into hospitals at the design and build phase. Many existing kitchens are also in need of investment.

Technology – making it easy

Embracing technology has shown that wastage can be reduced, and patients can order their food much closer to the mealtime. There are some fantastic technology solutions out there which can support caterers to deliver more efficient and accurate catering operations.  Nutrition and hydration should be an integral part of the Patient Care Plan.

Hospital Food And Drink Standards

We promote, develop and improve the standards of catering in healthcare because good wholesome food is paramount to a patient’s care and wellbeing. Helping to give  them the nutrients they need to recover from surgery or illness.

Going Green, sustainability and waste

Public food procurement, including Hospital Catering must embrace its responsibility in reducing food waste and by seeking to use sustainable resources, including supporting British farmers. Hospital caterers are also leading from the front in the reduction of single use plastics.

Making it happen

The Hospital Caterers Association welcomes the call for an expert panel to ensure that the recommendations of the Hospital Food Review are implemented. We expect that the HCA will play its part in making the patient experience better, each and every day.


The review makes the following eight recommendations to improve staff and patient health and wellbeing through hospital food:

  1. Catering staff support: introduce professional qualifications and standards for hospital caterers, provide more training and reward excellence with pay progressions.
  2. Nutrition and hydration: ensure importance of food services is understood and integrated within patient recovery, hospital governance and staff training.
  3. Food safety: ensure food safety through open communication channels to address safety concerns, by appointing food safety specialists and upholding standards.
  4. Facilities: provide funding to equip and upgrade hospital kitchens, provide 24/7 services for staff and patients, prioritise providing health-enhancing meals.
  5. Technology: every hospital should implement a digital meal ordering system by 2022 to collate food choices, manage allergies and diets, and minimise waste.
  6. Enforcing standards: food and drinks standards should be statutory and inspected by the CQC, a forum should be established to share exemplary best practice.
  7. Sustainability and waste: ensure Government food procurement standards are upheld, NHS trusts should agree a common method of monitoring food waste.

Going forward: establish an expert group of hospital caterers, dietitians and nurses to monitor progress, accountable to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

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