Catering managers at Nottingham City Hospital and the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham have switched to cooking with local ingredients, saving the NHS millions of pounds and in the process saving local jobs in farming and food distribution. The hospitals cover a wide area and 7,000 meals a day are served to patients and staff.
The kitchen, until recently run by private contractors, has now reverted to an in house contract. Trust catering manager John Hughes has switched all the menus to use local food, and now 90 per cent of the food comes from the East Midlands. Cooking with local ingredients has brought about a daily plate saving of £2.50 per patient and an annual saving of £6 million on the food budget. Hughes says that if replicated across the NHS it could save £400 million.
When the in-house team proposed the scheme even they thought it might work out more expensive or that they would have difficulty sourcing sufficient food. They (and many other doubters) have been proved wrong. And as unemployment is associated with ill health, Nottingham hospitals will also be saving the NHS money in other ways.
Five miles up the road in the village of Nuthall, Michael Hatton’s pig farm was nearly going bust before it got a contract from the hospital. It is now making a profit for the first time in years.
A number of other hospitals are adopting a similar approach, though not on the same scale. In April 2009 the Department of Health produced “Sustainable food: a guide for hospitals” (available on its website), whose main principle was that hospitals should, “Use local, in-season ingredients where possible, to minimise energy used in food production, transport and storage.”
Then Nottingham was just an example of good practice. Now it is proof that buying British is possible, cheaper and saves jobs.