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Matt Hancock and Prue Leith celebrate new hospital kitchen launch

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock and celebrity Chef, Prue Leith – who is advising on the hospital food review – were guests of honour at the official opening of the new £3m catering facility at St Richard’s Hospital in West Sussex. The new Central Production Kitchen (CPK) serves 3,000 meals every day across all Western Sussex Hospitals sites.


The unit was developed following a strategic review by Neller Davies, a leading facilities management consultancy, who worked with the Trust’s estates and facilities, dietetic and clinical teams as part of the process. The review saw the consultancy undertake preliminary research to develop a strategic plan which was endorsed by the Trust Board. Key objectives focused on improving food and service quality, reducing wastage and achieving overall better patient satisfaction.


The kitchen was developed as part of a Patient Catering Improvement Project where the new approach saw more than 200 people join the patient catering team at the Trust. An investment of £400,000 in new state-of-the-art equipment allows for the implementation of lean processes and a ‘single flow’ design where the kitchen is segregated into distinct zones to ensure that there is no cross-contamination and complies fully with Food Safety legislation requirements. 


All patient food at the CPK is freshly cooked and portioned into containers which are finished on the wards, once requested by patients from an a la carte menu. It also allows the hospitals to safely store and freeze food, leading to less wastage and greater availability. At any one time, the hospitals can store up to 16,000 meals.


The Trust is home to three hospitals; St Richard’s, Worthing and Southlands Hospitals. All food is cooked and prepared from St Richard’s, and delivered for service to the patients on the wards. 


The cook-freeze process offers far greater choice for patients which leads to better nutrition (patients are more likely to eat their chosen food), does not need any artificial modification to recipe ingredients and enables food to be served at the correct temperature as it is slowly heated for 90 minutes on the ward.


The new menu was designed jointly by the Trust catering team, dietitians and nursing colleagues (the ‘Power of Three’) and facilitated and tested by Neller Davies’ culinary team. It includes up to 50 main meal combinations available every day, vegetarian, vegan and specialist options, finger foods and grazing menus which are popular with older patients and those with specialist requirements.


In addition, to ensure patients receive the best nutrition possible, a new protected mealtimes policy was launched at the same time as the new menu. The policy means that, during meal-times, all non-essential activities and distractions on the wards stop. If visitors do not wish to help their loved ones to eat, they can be asked to leave.


Julian Fris, Director of Neller Davies, says: “We are delighted with how the project has developed and it’s fantastic to see it come to life. Its success has only been possible through close collaboration and partnership between the three key stakeholder groups; nurses, dietitians and catering teams. It is through this approach that we have been able to deliver the best nutrition & hydration outcomes for patients.”


David McLaughlin, Director of Estates and Facilities at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, says: “We are really pleased with the outcome. For us, we want to continue to evolve the system, and use our offer here as an opportunity to share best practice with others. It’s really important that we all continue to work with each other to help improve patient catering services.”


Prue Leith was enthusiastic in her praise of the new facility. "The truth is, this is the best institutional food I have ever eaten! And I’ve eaten in schools, hospitals, prisons and all over the place. I think it is amazing. I walked round and I couldn’t think of a single thing to complain about – which is not like me!”