Outsourcing catering jobs at Hinchingbrooke Hospital could hinder patient’s recovery and “decimate” the service, health experts have warned in a damning report.
Dr John Lister, who compiled ‘From Outstanding to Average?’, has investigated the case by the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust (NWAFT) to outsource the award-winning catering service at the hospital.
More than 2,200 people have signed a petition, set up by trade union Unison last month, urging NWAFT not to tender 70 roles of kitchen, linen and patient services staff across the trust’s sites.
Speaking at Unison webinar on Friday evening (October 3), Dr Lister who has worked on a number of NHS campaigns, said: “The catering is an outstanding service and private companies will not be able to match the quality and level of that.”
He claimed that the trust’s business plan “did not define what they wanted to achieve” by outsourcing, leaving “greater uncertainty” for everyone.
He also feared that food would be served in an “unappealing way and not warm”.
“Catering staff are bitterly upset and annoyed. They would deeply love to be part of the NHS as a team and to be treated as equals,” he added.
“Outsourcing will undermine the quality of services, break up a team and lose the expertise and dedication of staff who have maintained an outstanding level; all for the sake of [NWAFT] looking to cut a few quid.”
UNISON North West Anglia branch secretary Sam Hemraj read out a statement from catering staff, who said they felt “worthless”.
“Our world fell apart when we were told that our roles were being put out to tender,” it read.
“Having our NHS status taken away is devastating and makes us feel worthless. Our self-confidence has gone.
“The pain of being part of a bidding process feels inhumane yet it is legal.
“We feel we have no voice, and although we don’t know how this will end, we know that this is ugly, unfair and not befitting of any NHS trust.
“They cannot take away our dignity.”
Councillor Linda Jones, from Cambridge City Council, said: “The quality of food has an impact on the patient’s recovery.
“I am appalled at the attempt of the trust to decimate a trusted, high quality catering service at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, especially after they performed so well.”
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Graham Wilde, chief operating officer for the trust, said they would ensure they are “providing the best value for money for taxpayers while maintaining the high-quality services”.
“We are now working with approximately 70 trust staff affected by this process and the existing providers and we will be holding regular staff briefing sessions to keep them updated,” he said.
“We are also meeting regularly with representatives from Unite and Unison to discuss any concerns they may have and to ensure that they are aware of the timetable and approach being taken.”
Hinchingbrooke Hospital was named as one of the top 10 hospitals in the country for food – and was the first to win a Craft Guild of Chefs Award in 2018.