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Tried & trusted

Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has transformed staff catering for the better by partnering with FM consultants Neller Davies and workplace caterer BM to bring the service back in-house. Piers Zangana reports

In 2012, a study co-authored by Professor Michael West and Professor Jeremy Dawson identified a direct link between employee satisfaction and lower patient mortality rates.

In 2018, a BMA-published report titled ‘Supporting health & wellbeing at work’ stated that: “…at a time when the NHS is under-resourced, over-stretched and facing recruitment and retention problems, it is vital that health and wellbeing of staff is prioritised”. A key recommendation was staff access to quality food.

Fast forward a few years and we were besieged by a global pandemic – a pivotal moment for NHS workers.

At the height of the enforced lockdowns, communities were rallying around local healthcare organisations to offer their support and help exhausted and demoralised workers.

Suddenly, tired healthcare professionals were no longer fuelling up in tired canteens. They were enjoying deliveries from high-street brands, high-end restaurants and high-quality food suppliers. Staff expectations were changing.

An independent review of hospital food launched in October 2020, during the pandemic, highlighted significant shortcomings in staff and visitor feeding across the NHS estate.

The 97-page review, led by Phil Shelley with support and endorsement from Celebrity Chef and Food Campaigner Prue Leith, specifically identified a failure across some, not all, hospital Trusts to provide adequate food provision for staff.

Not only was this resulting in droves of people leaving the NHS but, as Professor West’s research highlighted, could have had a major impact on matters of life and death.

Working conditions for staff were thrown directly into the spotlight, and some Trusts decided that it was time to take direct and immediate action.

One such establishment was Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals (ASPH), a hospital trust based in Surrey, providing acute services to more than 410,000 people in Chertsey, Ashford and the surrounding areas. It employs 4,400 members of staff.

Chris Bell, Director of Estates and Facilities at ASPH, explains: “The pandemic really brought home the challenges that so many NHS staff are facing.

“Staff were seeing people dying, including some of their own colleagues. People were working long hours, they were tired and afraid. This was the reality of the situation and we knew we had to do something to help in areas that we could make a difference.”

Recognising this, the ASPH Board was keen to develop a strategy that looked at improved health, productivity and wellbeing. As the adage goes, through adversity comes opportunity.

About Sarah OBeirne

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