Working in collaboration with Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and BM, Neller Davies won a 2022 Catey for a ground-breaking NHS food service project. The lauded project transformed staff and retail catering at the Trust. The Trust serves more than 410,000 people and employs 4,400 staff.

Catering strategy aligned to staff wellbeing

The ASPH Board was keen to develop a strategy to improve staff health, productivity and wellbeing. The strategy aimed to:

  • Develop a vision for catering services
  • Offer catering similar to other professional settings
  • Align the Trust’s catering standards with, for example, Government Buying Standards, WRAP initiatives and CQUIN guidance
  • Improve food safety to five stars
  • Respond to the NHS Food Review 2020 on food safety and quality

The Board appointed Neller Davies, who provide strategic food and FM consultancy services, to support the transformation. The transformation plan focussed on engaging the hospital clinical and non-clinical staff, ensuring collaboration and buy-in from the outset. Furthermore, it paved a way to in-source the service and adopt best-in-class approaches from non-healthcare sectors.

Is this really hospital food?

There is one prevailing comment from customers “is this really hospital food?”. The team is always introducing new theme days to keep everyone talking and wondering what could be next. Iced tea mocktails fly off the shelves as a fun refreshing addition to a lunch time break or a fresh fruit smoothie for a healthy energy boost. Doughnut days are the most popular of all with many team leaders getting boxes to take back to their teams, and colleagues coming in on their days off just to get one.

Flagship for the NHS

ASPH has become a flagship site for the NHS. Phil Shelley, chair of Hospital Food Review awarded it exemplar status and Dame Prue Leith cited it as an example of best practice. Whilst there have been campaigns over the years to address issues with hospital catering, few have gathered real traction. The project at ASPH has given the NHS hope that healthcare staff can be fed just as well as those who work in corporate workplaces. The success within this Trust has led to others coming to them for help with their own catering transformations. In addition, the team at ASPH Trust shares menus, recipes and concepts on the Exemplar site database and NHS food review teams. These are available to all NHS teams providing them with the resources to develop their own offerings.

Meaningful difference

At ASPH customers are thought of more as partners. They are the ones who drive every menu choice, concept and promotion that is provided in the Trust. The team always welcome feedback and ideas and these are used to further the offering.

Many customers called for fresh produce to feature highly in the menu, this led to the team increasing their fresh food production to 90% up from the previous 50%. The team designed the menu to offer healthy and energy dense meal choices whilst still enabling customers to make their own choices if they wish to have less healthy options. Although healthier eating is a key focus at ASPH it is balanced with staff wellbeing. When it comes to engaging and wellbeing of customers, a treat is always the key. On special occasions the team put customer wellbeing at its forefront. For example, offering free ice cream or ice lollies for all hospital staff on hot summer days. A small touch or gesture like this has a hugely positive affect on all customers to remind them they are appreciated as partners.

Supporting the team

ASPH ensure its enhanced catering offer remains affordable and accessible for staff with a maximum £4 meal cost and selling prices reduced by a third. At the hospital the team run a scheme to ensure that everyone is looked after, especially in the hardest times. At the end of service, left over boxed meals get distributed for staff who may be struggling financially. This ensures they and their families can maintain a good healthy diet with freshly prepared meals.

The subsidy was retained as part of its employee benefits package to support staff. The Trust reviewed and re-banded catering roles to ensure they accurately reflected skills and to support with recruitment and retention.

Positive outcomes

As a result of the transformation the Trust is experiencing positive outcomes. They have implemented new technology including click and collect and app payment and new brand and marketing collateral including social media promotion and awareness campaigns. The team introduced seasonal menus, outdoor and indoor pop-ups, ward takeaway range, themed days, guest chefs, BBQs and ice cream parlours. The Trust invested in professional chef management, barista, customer service development and waste management training. Staff satisfaction with the catering service has increased from 52% pre-transformation to 71% which aligns with professional workplaces. The Trust now sources at least 50% of produce from local suppliers cutting emissions across the supply chain. The Trust achieved 5 stars for food safety across all its outlets and to cope with the increased demand it built a new kitchen. Sales revenue doubled, and catering transactions have increased from 400 to 1200 per day.

Read more about the Catey Award here The Caterer