October 5, 2008

Angry MP’s Letter Still Misses Point of Catering Farce

Having just read about the problems with Sodexo's hospital food catering in The Sentinel, I must raise several concerns.

While the letter from MP Joan Walley to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire about the awarding of a contract to a foreign company to supply food to patients at the hospital is laudable, it misses the main points.

No real consideration was given to in-house catering.

While I agree the decision was a fait accompli, the MP should have been in the loop by virtue of her position.

I would guess everyone in Newcastle, Stoke-on-Trent and the Staffordshire Moorlands will be appalled by her statement, "I realise that the decisions you have made are irreversible but there are lessons to be learned and issues to be resolved."

At this point in time, patients are on an enforced diet whether they need to lose weight or not, because no-one listened to the warnings about the logistical problems of producing meals in Wales to be transported to Staffordshire.

I could not believe my ears when, in justification of the choice, a senior member of the hospital management committee said: "Awarding the contract to Wales would help with their unemployment problems."

I can see Sodexo has a great ability to secure lucrative contracts but is obviously unable to service them satisfactorily.

Are we once again seeing the results of negotiating another ironclad contract which works for business but not for the benefit of the University Hospital or its patients? Even worse, is there going to be a loss of millions of pounds of NHS cash like the debacle with the American-owned private hospital at Burton?

To open the next debate, should we even be considering the next step of trust status for the University Hospital, where the only benefit will be the ability to borrow? This could actually lead to instability, moving into privatisation, with the impact on patients already patently demonstrated.



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