East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust provides a full range of acute hospital and adult community services for the region.

They achieved their Bronze award in May 2017 and now serve 4475 Food for Life Served Here meals every day to patients and staff.

Tim Radcliffe, Deputy Patient Services Manager, looks after five sites within the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. He takes an operational lead on the running of the Catering Department and all food provided to the five sites including patient, staff and retail provision. We spoke to him about the great work the trust has done to achieve their Bronze Food for Life Served Here award.

What was the original motivation for gaining an award?
We wanted recognition for the work we do as an in-house hospital who cooks a large amount of the food served from scratch. It was difficult to find the right path to achieve this. The Food for Life Served Here Award felt very much in line with our CQUIN targets and the steps we were already taking to promote healthier choices around food. It was also a tool to be able to promote all the work we are doing around sourcing British and more sustainable produce – for example: Red Tractor meat, free range eggs and sustainable fish. The decision was made within the Catering Department to work towards the Food for Life Served Here award and we applied for the extra funding, which was approved. The Trust overall have been very supportive of the work we have done.

How does the award fit in to your Health and Wellbeing strategies?
Holding the award has become part of the driving force of the work we are doing around promoting the quality food provision we have built at the hospital.

What do you think the long-term effect of this approach will be on patients, staff and visitors?
All the patient recipes have been developed into a recipe book and have all been analysed nutritionally by the catering department's registered associate nutritionist, with Trust dietitians providing added feedback. Now the chefs are following this then it is much easier for the clinicians to monitor what each individual patient is eating and whether this reflects their needs.

How did you find the process of gaining the award?
A lot of work went into changing the recipes to ensure standards were met and getting them all approved by our dietitians. Ensuring all our staff understood the importance of using the correct ingredients took time – although it was time well spent, as we now have a fantastic resource in the recipe book we developed, and staff are fully on board, and taking ownership and pride in the food they are preparing and serving.

Have you used Food for Life Served Here training and support packages, either before receiving your award, or to upgrade to silver or gold? How have they helped?
We paid for the full support package and found it to be a worthwhile financial investment. The benchmarking that was carried out saved time and gave us a comprehensive action plan and the ability to call on an expert from the Soil Association when needed. This is a one-off payment for us, as the knowledge we gained has enabled us to get an understanding of the standards and when we roll out the award in other areas, we know the main bulk of the work has been done and we are confident we know what to do.

The training session included as part of the package really helped our team to understand the issues and ethos behind the standards and we had great feedback from the session. The marketing package provided us with a focus to be able to celebrate and have the achievement recognised.

Are you using new suppliers to help you meet Food for Life Served Here standards?
We struggled to find a steak and kidney pudding that met the standards around meat. Our normal supplier couldn’t help, so we approached a local butcher and now have steak puddings made locally. We also now buy all our retail pies and sausage rolls from them and have found there to be very little impact on cost. We can promote the fact that our pies are locally made and are having a positive impact on a local business, which is great in terms of adding social value to what we do.

Are there any unexpected benefits?
The impact on our catering team has been really positive in terms of morale and ensuring they are using their skills to deliver a high quality food offering.

We have found the recognition gained from achieving the award has been really positive, both internally within the hospital and externally with press. The perception of NHS food is quite low and often receives bad press, so this positive news does have an impact.

Quite a lot of changes to our retail offering were made with the requirements of the CQUIN – the range of confectionery, beverages and crisps changed dramatically, as did the portion sizes of some food. Having the award is helping to mitigate the negative impact by giving us something positive to help promote the work we are doing around healthier food across the board.

"The impact on our catering team has been really positive"
Tim Radcliffe, Deputy Patient Services Manager

Are you planning to upgrade or expand your Food for Life Served Here Award?
We are planning to extend the Bronze award to our retail operation at other sites and will be investigating the Silver award in the future.

Top tip …

Ensure the required standards are written into tenders for contracts – especially for meat. This ensures there are no price increases due to requesting a different assurance level of product in the middle of a contract.

Persevere with the work – don’t be put off by the length of the task. It isn’t that straightforward to meet the standards and it will take time, but it is well worth it in the long run. 

Ensure all your team, including the suppliers, are on board and recognised for the work they are doing. Once the vision is clear and everyone is working together, the impact of the award is really valuable.

"The Food for Life Served Here Award felt very much in line with our CQUIN targets"Tim Radcliffe (Deputy Patient Services Manager)