14 July 2014
Today’s Herald has an exclusive report on criticism of the quality of food in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde hospitals.
The health board are to be praised for allowing a restaurateur David Maguire access to all areas when he volunteered to examine the meals and the preparation process in detail.
However, despite the claimed “increasingly positive feedback” from patients, the board must be wincing from his comments that: “What passes for food in the NHS bears no resemblance to anything that I have encountered...On occasions it looked like food. It rarely had the texture of food. It reminded me of the worst components that I have encountered at school meals.”
He summed up: “I am astonished that anyone eats any of it.”
No-one expects the NHS to serve the kind of food you would get in a top quality restaurant but people in hospital deserve to have, indeed need to have edible meals as part of their recovery. Mr Maguire offered his services after a column in the Herald last year by the paper’s writer Anne Johnstone who was being treated for leukaemia and was appalled at the food dished up to patients at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.
UNISON Scotland has long campaigned for fresh, nutritious, locally sourced food in schools and hospitals, highlighted in our Food for Good Charter. We noted that the Scottish Government’s recent discussion document “Becoming a Good Food Nation” called for, among other things, the public sector to lead by example with the NHS, local authorities and Scottish Government signing up to offer fresh, seasonal, local and sustainable produce.
We pointed out on this blog that if we’re serious about creating a real Good Food Nation, such an initiative, broadly reflecting our Charter, should come under public health. And of course, the cuts facing the health service, along with all public services, place enormous pressure on hard-pressed catering staff.
The Herald leader, acknowledging mass catering is very different from restaurant food preparation, points out: “..part of the problem is that the catering budget was cut by almost £1million in 2012 and the board now spends barely £4 per day per patient in some of its hospitals.” We agree with them that cutting back on the quality of food is a false economy. Glasgow is certainly not the only area undergoing cuts and our recent ‘The Cuts Don’t Work’ report shows ‘austerity’ measures leading to even deeper cuts in the next few years.
What kind of Scotland, what kind of health service, what kind of food for hospital patients do we want? Only so much can be done to drive up quality in the face of cuts if resources, equipment, and the times hospital kitchens are open all place big restrictions on what catering staff - who want to feed the patients well - can achieve.