HCA forum discloses unique insight into NHS procurement

The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) has delivered another successful National Leadership and Development Forum, gathering all four UK nations together to share best practice in NHS healthcare catering.

The prestigious two-day annual event returned to Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales and was hosted by the HCA’s Wales branch. More than 500 dedicated HCA members, suppliers and guests attended.

Incoming HCA chair Craig Smith commented, “Amid growing cost pressures and Brexit, added to the constraints of a highly structured and regulated environment, procurement continues to be one of the top challenges facing NHS caterers across the four nations. It was staggering to see the differences between the four nations and the differing outcomes each of these brought.”

Hosted by Roy Lilley, broadcaster and health policy analyst, the forum delivered high-ranking procurement representatives from all four nations. Each one delivered ‘eye-opening’ presentations about procurement strategies across the UK.

First to the stage representing England was Charlie Hudson, head of procurement at NHS Supply Chain: Food. Hudson reported on the importance of responding to caterers’ needs. These included the desire to buy from local suppliers and the importance of food savings.

Wales was represented by Keir Warner (pictured), head of sourcing at NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership – Procurement Services. Warner reported, in 2017-2018 the expenditure on goods and services was an estimated £873m. With savings of £115m delivered between 2015-2019.

To collaborate more effectively, Wales suggests the reporting of savings, benchmarking and contract utilisation are key measures, as is interaction with the finance department on a monthly basis. Warner also encourages issues, in either product or services, to be reported to procurement in order to manage supplier relationships more effectively.

Scotland was represented by Martin Street, strategic sourcing director for procurement at NHS National Services Scotland. He highlighted their food spend is in the region of £30m and is spent across 21 key suppliers, including 15 Scottish suppliers, of which 14 are SME’s. NHS National Services Scotland have three distributors, all employed within Scotland with Scottish depots, whilst three of its suppliers are based in England, two of which are SME’s.

Street shared their ethos of encouraging smaller baskets of goods and supports this by advertising its frameworks by geographical health boards. Where appropriate, NHS Scotland include a requirement for local produce. Milk, cream and morning bakery goods must be 100% Scottish, and butcher meat and meat sundries should be at least 90% Scottish.

Lastly, Florence McAlister from Business Services Organisation (BSO) Procurement and Logistics Service Northern Ireland, represented Northern Ireland. Its procurement cycle partnership provides suppliers with a description of the services or goods required. This allows them to propose the most appropriate solution or products at the best price. Ultimately, delivering quality and value.

BSO’s annual spend on foods includes £3.5m on frozen foods, £1.4m on milk, £3.5m on ambient goods, and £1.6m on fresh fruit and vegetables. 3,255 of its food lines are provided fully accredited to NHS food safety standard suppliers, with a product data sheet library, and are available via e-ordering.

The forum was opened by HCA President, The Rt Hon Lord Hunt of Kings Heath PC OBE, and followed by keynote speaker, Dr Andrew Goodall, CEO NHS Wales.

Goodall’s presentation highlighted the Wales 10-year plan, designed around its patients and community. He emphasised the value of prevention, interaction with patients, safety, independence, and tailored services - ultimately, pushing for a seamless mealtime experience for patients.

Goodall went on to recognise the importance of the HCA’s campaign, Power of 3 - a campaign which seeks to bring together three complementary disciplines; catering, dietetics, and nursing, to improve the patient experience and increase nutritional outcomes.

The successful opening day also saw presentations from Judyth Jenkins MBE, lead dietitian, and Rebecca Aylward, both from Cardiff Vale UHB. Following their presentation last year about the Model Ward project, they returned to update delegates about its progress in the last 12 months.

During the afternoon of the forum’s first day, speakers included Nigel Owens MBE and chief nursing officer of Wales, Professor Jean White. The day was closed with Hugh Jones from WRAP (The Waste & Resources Action Programme). He presented ways to reduce food waste in hospitals. And the financial and environmental advantages in doing so. A panel discussion took place during this session.

The second and closing day commenced with the HCA’s Annual General Meeting. HCA members gathered to see Stewart McKenzie hand over chairmanship to Craig Smith. The meeting also announced Brian Robb as the HCA’s new vice chairman.

Following the AGM, Stewart McKenzie presented an overview of his two-year tenure as chairman of the HCA. During his term, he oversaw the HCA 70th anniversary objectives, which coincided with the 70th birthday celebrations of the NHS. McKenzie brought a contemporary and forward-thinking approach to the role, delivering modernising platforms to secure the future of the HCA for the next 70 years.

Speakers on the final day included forum facilitator Roy Lilley, Jo Ralling from Food Foundation, Alison McCree and Mark Hayman HCA vice presidents, and Julian Edwards from the Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI).

The afternoon commenced with Gail Walker from Open Door PR. The public perception of hospital food is often inaccurate, in comparison to the great work caterers deliver every day to patients, staff, and visitors. Walker encourages caterers to share the amazing work they do and flood the landscape with good news stories. And the speaker to close the forum was ‘Big’ Phil Champion.

Next year, the HCA Learning & Development Forum will be held at the ACC Liverpool, Kings Docks on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 April 2020.