Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Robotic responses

Don’t you just love management speak? I don’t know whether to blame the USA for exporting this particular strain of gobbledegook, but there’s no doubt that some managers, especially those in the NHS, appear to have taken master’s degrees in verbal diarrhoea. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to the subject of hospital food.

Recent studies have revealed an astonishing variation in the amount that NHS trusts spend on feeding patients. Consider yourself very privileged if you happen to be cared for by The James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. This splendid institution forks out £18.20 per day feeding their patients. I can imagine patients gorging themselves on quails’ eggs, white truffles and paté de fois gras, washed down with Krug Champagne.

On the other hand, pity the poor souls who are guests of Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust. They get a measly £2.80 a day spent on their food. Meanwhile, Rotherham Foundation Trust also spends a miserable £2.80 on patients’ food and drink. That sounds about enough for a diet of bread and dripping washed down with strong sweet tea. Mind you, Yorkshire folk are well known for being careful with the pennies.

Across the UK the average amount spent on patient food is £7.43, but this figure has dropped from £8.07 in 2004/5, when food was considerably cheaper.

To be fair, according to Kirsty Edmondson-Jones, Associate Director of Facilities at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust: "The food costs are for raw ingredients only and don’t include costs for staff, buying in ready prepared meals, or overheads such as heating, lighting or maintenance.”

"We operate traditional kitchens, with skilled NHS chefs who freshly prepare our menus using raw ingredients to make meals from scratch and served fresh," she added.

All credit to Ms Edmondson-Jones, who sounds far more convincing than Matthew Lowry, Chief executive of Rotherham Hospital who has obviously been fitted with an NHS Management Chip: “Providing patients with good quality, healthy meals is a very important part of their care. Patients get a choice of tasty, nutritious meals throughout their stay with us and they tell us we’re getting it right. The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust conducts regular patient meal surveys and we consistently achieve satisfaction rates of more than 94 per cent."

High-spending Nick Coveney, Director of Nursing and Patient Services at James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, says: “Providing our patients with good quality, nutritious food is extremely important, as the right diet can help people recover from illness. We provide a good choice of fresh foods for all of our patients, and make sure that those on special diets, such as low fat, low potassium or wheat-free diets, are well catered for.”

Nick sounds like a man who’s finally got the message that good food is as important as good medicines, proper nursing and excellent medical care in helping patients recover.

Jo Webber, who has the glorious title of deputy director of policy at the NHS Confederation claims: “There could be many reasons for the variation in spend on food and this data needs to be looked at in greater detail to ascertain the reasons for that. All trusts will try to ensure they are providing the best possible nutrition for patients. Evidence shows that providing patients with a highly nutritious diet aids a speedier recovery."

She too must have been fitted with the bog standard NHS Management Chip. It sounds like some of these automata have a long way to go.

Source: The Times 20/10/09


  1. Patient satisfaction rate of 94% is too low Matthew Lowry. I'd be wanting to know what the other 6% thought, and why. Anyway, I know as well as the next person (probably more actually as this sort of thing is my job) that you can get surveys to produce the stats and results you want them to.

  2. My kids have free school dinners but i only realised this year how much each child is entitled to:
    INFANTS = £1.90
    JUNIOR = £1.95
    SPECIAL NEEDS = £2.00
    SECONDARY = £1.80
    it really surprised me to see they give less to a secondary child who obviously eats more than an infant child it just dosnt make sense.

  3. 94%? if they were on ebay, they would have been kicked off by now! lol

    To be honest, i think most people who fill in these questionaires always tick the excellent box hoping the bosses will view them as a model patient and give them the better quality 'managers menu' OR tick the 'dreadful' box because they don't really care as what ever they eat is better than they get at home anyway...

    Hope the x-ray results are good news for you.

  4. What's the difference, I wonder, between a skilled chef and a 'skilled NHS chef'. Something to do perhaps with the proof of the pudding being in the eating

  5. Maybe the NHS should look to these guys to supply hospital food?


    They cater for a whole range of dietary requirements and both the standard and price are excellent!


  6. May I just say one thing. We here at the Stevenage & Letchworth Primary Care Trust have procedures in place to ensure the highest standards of patient nutrition and food solutions in the community at this time. We are constantly striving to improve food outcomes in compliance with the latest evidence-based nutritional guidelines for the benefit of ALL our customers. Issues around hospital food raise issues of health inequality not to mention all sorts of cross-cutting themes and we are totally committed to addressing these themes in partnership with you.

    PARTNERSHIP is, of course, the big theme of today! I realise it’s something that’s easy to say in a forum like this, but more difficult to achieve in the real world, where institutional boundaries, cultural differences, funding issues, sometimes even the personalities involved can make it hard for us to work together as well as would like.

    And this is exactly why we are currently working with Regional Public Health Groups to establish Regional Nutrition Managers in every part of the country. These managers will be, if you like, ‘partnership champions’ breaking through the boundaries, helping PCTs make the right connections with SHAs, councils and the Human Resources Panopticon, and providing a clear point of co-ordination to help us collaborate on the key indicators at this time.

    We are establishing an East Midlands Meals Directorate that will bring together a number of agencies including the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board, the local authority, the Meat Trust and Children’s Services, among others. It will work to create safe, healthy communities through more effective delivery of meat solutions and better treatment services. Good multi-agency working like this isn’t just the right way forward, it’s the ONLY way forward!!

    To sum up … good data, good commissioning, good partnership working: three pillars of a better approach. But, of course, the acid test is what happens on patients' trays on a daily basis in a hospital environment. And that is precisely why we welcome continual feedback from all our customers so that we can work together in partnership to deliver the right solution for YOU. We may be monitoring this blog for training purposes. Thank you.

    [Bastardised from an atrocity by Dawn Primarolo.]

  7. This reminds me of a group holiday I had last year, when one evening the food fell short of the usually excellent standards. I amused myself by observing the various reactions, which fell into four categories: 1) I've paid for it so I'll eat it (the misers) 2) It's fine, what are you worried about (the 'worse fed at home' brigade) 3) It's rubbish and I will walk out right now and get a pizza down the road (the lucky, determined and well-heeled ones) 4) Let's stay, ask for more bread and see what everyone else thinks - that was me as one small meal doesn't hurt anyone.

    I know it's different for you TM as you can't walk out and you can't survive on c**p all the time. However, it was an interesting experiment in sociology.

  8. Tiresias: That is just genius. Are you sure you don't work as an NHS manager. Sounds a bit too convincing to me. Brilliant. I'd like to make a post of it to make sure more people see it. Would you object?

  9. TM, thes NHS Managers must have only been on the beginners' course. They haven't said a word about "meeting key performance indicators", "blue sky thinking" or something about no I being in the word team. My usual response to the last remark is there may not be an I in team but there's very definitely a U in FUCK OFF!

    These are not managers but managerialists and I despise them almost as much as I do accountants.

  10. TM, very kind of you to say so and of course no objections. However, you should know first that apart from a few food-related tweaks, the meat of it [in the hospital sense] really is a speech from Dawn Primarolo (linked below). Anyone could have done a similar job by trawling the speech archive of any of Harriet Harman, Hazel Blears, Yvette Cooper, take your pick. Which all goes to show they really do all run off the same microchip.

    Cheers and get well soon.