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  NHS Cooks and Associated Staff Index  

For more information, or to join UNISON, contact: Simon MacFarlane, Lead Officer for Ancillary workers, UNISON, West Campbell St., Glasgow G2 6RX. Tel 0845 355 0845.
e-mail s.macfarlane@unison.co.uk



UNISON's NHS in Scotland Food for Good Charter

The NHS in Scotland is one of the biggest caterers in the country providing food to tens on thousands of patients and staff every day. Whilst food hygiene has always been a top priority catering budgets have in the past been seen as areas where costs can be driven down, pennies saved and subsequently quality reduced. This is no longer acceptable in 2003.

Every year the Scottish NHS spends millions of pounds on produce to feed NHS patients, visitors and staff. This massive purchasing power should be used to influence the Scottish food economy and diet for the good of all.

There is a positive 'NHS Food for Good' agenda that the NHS in Scotland should adopt to deliver on the Scottish Executive's healthy eating policy in their current 'Healthy Living Campaign' and wider social concerns. That is why UNISON is launching our 10-point charter and asking the people of Scotland to back us in our campaign for its adoption by the Scottish Parliament.

We have consulted with a numner of different organisations who have given us the benefit of their expertise in drawing up this charter. We thank them for their help and advice. However it remains UNISON's policy and responsibility.


The NHS should set itself the target of sourcing 10% of all supplies from organic producers by 2005 and 25% by 2010. By 2007 patients and staff should have a daily option of an organic main meal. The NHS should actively engage with all its suppliers with regards to the use of pesticides, steroids, antibiotics and additives to attempt to positively manage their reduction whilst at all times ensuring food quality and safety. Similarly whilst there is major public scepticism about Genetically Modified foods and concerns about their risks the NHS should avoid the use of GM products.


Animal produce supplied to the NHS should be sourced where possible from farm assured schemes such as the RSPCA Freedom Food Scheme, Quality Meat Scotland or organic schemes with the following targets being set, 25% by 2005 and 100% by 2010. Care should be taken to source as much animal produce as possible from within the UK, in order to avoid buying from intensive rearing systems abroad which would fall far short of UK standards. This is particularly relevant in the case of imported chicken and egg products. The Scottish people have a long track record of animal welfare concern and the NHS should seek to be an exemplar in the food economy. Its bulk buying power can significantly increase the demand and thus the economies of scale of quality assured food that would make it more affordable to all.


Much produce available to the mass catering market is produced from low quality meat, saturated fat and additives, a sausage can have the following contents: 50% meat of which 30% is pork fat with a bit of jowl, and 20% mechanically recovered chicken meat, 17% water, 30% rusk and Soya, Soya concentrate, hydrogenised protein, modified flower, dried onion, sugar, dextrose, phosphates, preservative E221 sodium sulphate, flavour enhancer, spices, garlic flavouring, antioxidant E3000 (ascorbic acid), colouring E128 (red 2g); casings made from Collagen and cow hide. It should be guaranteed that the meat and poultry sourced by the NHS should be of a high quality, with high meat contents and low fat and added water content.


Fair trade offers producers of many raw products in the developing world a fair guaranteed price for their produce thus removing them from the vagaries of the world commodity market and helping them to help themselves. If fair-trade tea and coffee is good enough for our parliamentarians it should be good enough for NHS patients and staff. As an immediate step all tea and coffee supplied at corporate events where catering is provided should be fair trade, additionally fair trade tea and coffee should be available to buy in canteens. By 2005 the NHS should seek to source 10% of goods from fair-trade suppliers where there is a supplier for that commodity and by 50% by 2010. Additionally the NHS in Scotland should actively avoid purchasing goods from companies who promote, especially in developing countries, powdered milk to the detriment of breast feeding.


The Scottish NHS has led the way in terms of providing healthy options on every menu. However as a major employer providing often the main meal of the day for tens of thousands of patients and staff more resources need to be put into making healthy food more enticing, accessible and varied. Lessons can be learned from Scandinavian countries in terms of the value of berries in our diet and they should be available for every meal. Scotland as major producer of raspberries should be using our natural resource as a health improvement tool. As the Scottish Executive sets standards for school meals and reduces the access to chips in its report 'Hungry for Success - A whole school approach to School meals in Scotland' parents should not be let off the hook. Scotland's biggest public service and employer needs to lead by example. Other healthy diet initiatives such as upping the consumption of oily fish high in Omega 3 and cutting salt intake should also be pursued by the NHS.


The patients and staff of Scotland's NHS produce thousands of tons of catering waste from tin cans to banana skins. As landfill taxes rise and the availability of landfill sites declines the NHS should be leading the way in terms of recycling, reducing waste and composting. Working in conjunction with Scotland's local authorities the NHS should investigate ways it can reduce waste and increase recycling. Additionally the Scottish NHS should strive to reduce the food miles travelled by its supplies by setting targets for sourcing food locally where possible.

As an immediate step all canteens, hospitals and wards should have recycling receptacles for cans, bottles and cups; take away cartons should be constructed from renewable sources.


The provision of nutritious and safe food to patients should always be the number one priority. Privatisation of catering services ensures that profit becomes the number one priority. The Scottish NHS should call an immediate moratorium on the privatisation of any more NHS catering services and should seek to return those currently privatised to public control and ownership. The return of many catering services to in-house provision over the last year or so illustrates the failures of the private sector in providing this service. Hover this charter's adoption should be mandatory those remaining private contractors operating in the NHS in Scotland today. The number one priority governing NHS food should be its contribution to health and welfare of patients and staff, not costs.


No longer should NHS catering budgets be the first call for savings and seen as a non-core overhead always to be suppressed. Food for good and food for health requires resourcing that the Scottish Executive should provide the NHS with sufficient funds to meet this Food for Good charter and to continue to innovate as a beacon service for the people of Scotland.


Scottish patients deserve fresh food produced on the day of consumption by local chefs using where possible local produce. The move to mass produced factory catering and often transporting it long distances by road is a regressive step and one which has been poorly received by the consumers: patients, staff and visitors. When a patient is recuperating food is often a make or break experience in terms of moral during a hospital stay. The Scottish NHS should be aiming for satisfaction every time; this can only be achieved by producing real food locally. As an immediate step the Scottish NHS should not commission any new cook chill and cook freeze production facitilites in the NHS. A full review of existing facilities should be carried out.

It is also vital that catering services are equipped with the resources, knowledge and sensitivities to respond to cultural and minority ethnic diet needs in line with the Scottish Executive's Fair for All strategy. Local production also enables a far more flexible response to special diets such as gluten free, nut allergy, vegan and other diets.


The Scottish NHS should seek to retain and recruit a well motivated highly trained workforce in its kitchen, therefore they should enter into negotiations with UNISON to achieve a satisfactory pay deal for Chefs and Associated Staff.

For more information, or to join UNISON, contact: Simon MacFarlane, Lead Officer for Ancillary workers, UNISON, West Campbell St., Glasgow G2 6RX. Tel 0845 355 0845. e-mail s.macfarlane@unison.co.uk

Aug 2003