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Date Thursday 30 November 2006

NHS Food should be ‘Food for Good' - UNISON

UNISON the union that represents hospital catering staff today said that the adoption of nutritional standards across the whole public sector and a system of compliance enforcement was needed to improve nutrition in hospital food. The union also said that more organic and locally-sourced food should be used, and that catering staff should remain as part of the health team in hospitals and not be privatised.

These comments came as a response to today's Audit Scotland follow-up report on hospital catering that showed much improvement in patient choice, reduced food wastage and cost control, but indicated a need to improve nutritional care.

Tom Waterson, Chair of UNISON's Scottish Health Group said "Staff in Scotland's hospitals have been doing a tremendous job in improving the standard of hospital catering on a shoestring. "Now we need to implement a ‘Food for Good' programme of action across the public sector, with hospitals as a key component. This would involve nutritional standards being set for public sector provision of food, with regulators responsible for ensuring compliance. This would cover schools, hospitals, prisons, care homes etc. and would build on the work already underway in schools and in the health service by NHS Quality Improvement Scotland."

UNISON also says there is a need for a commitment to a properly resourced and staffed service. This requires fair pay and conditions and proper training and the absolute principle that children's health comes before commercial factors.

Tom Waterson said "It is essential that if there are impediments to boosting patient's health which are linked to the Private Finance Initiative and Public Private Partnership schemes, then these are overcome. Clearly we need to ensure hospitals have suitable kitchens and equipment to allow staff to cook fresh produce on site and serve it in a positive dining environment. If PFI/PPP schemes do not allow for this, intervention is needed."

UNISONScotland launched its ‘Food for Good' Charter, in 2003 - http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/healthcare/chefs/charter.html, urging targets on the NHS for sourcing organic and fair trade food as well as dealing with concerns about privatisation of hospital catering and the impact on the quality of food available to patients.


For Further Information Please Contact: Tom Waterson (Chair - Scottish Health Group) 0775 362 7575 (m) Glyn Hawker (Scottish Organiser - Health) 07876 441 237(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)