Feedback from HCA National Leadership & Development Forum 2015

We took a number of vox-pops at the 2015 HCA National Leadership & Development Forum at the Hilton Glasgow and Hilton Marriott (16-17 April), inviting you to tell us what you thought of this year’s event. Thank you all for your comments. Your feedback is important to the ongoing success of the HCA National Forum.

And here is what you said…

Day 1 – Delegates


"It’s my first time at an HCA Conference for many years. I’ve just rejoined the HCA as I’ve started looking after catering again within my role in Facilities. It’s grown a lot since I last attended. It’s big and impressive, the opportunity for networking is great and there’s so much going on. I’ve found the people-centred sessions particularly good and in particular Tommy Whitelaw’s talk about Dementia and his own experience with his mother, and also Julie Bailey’s experiences with Mid Staffs. They were particularly interesting – it just puts everything into perspective about caring and shows how important food is towards recovery."

Kate Murray, Catering Lead, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

"The Forum is going well. Some of the Speakers are better than others. Thomas Whitelaw was so motivational – he had grown men in tears with his story. He was so passionate – explaining how he was lost, didn’t know what to do or who to turn to for help, but, as we have in our own establishments across the service, we have some rough diamonds who come up trumps and have hearts of gold, and they helped him.

But it is a bit cramped in the Forum room. In past years we’ve had round tables where you can rest your notebooks and write properly but here we’re trying to balance everything on our knees and it’s not easy. But otherwise, it’s all been very positive."

Howard Cartledge, Trust Catering Lead, Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

"It’s been good. Julie Bailey told a touching story and I felt sorry for her. But I still think there is an opportunity to make things better and there’s a long way to go. A theme is coming through – nurses engaging with caterers. It’s something we all talk about and I’m pleased to see that there is a nurse in the audience. Until nurses become interested in catering and engage with the meal service it won’t be a success. I don’t expect them to deliver the food but when a patient leaves a meal and housekeeping clears it away we need the nursing staff to tell us, to engage with us, and explain why the patient hasn’t eaten so we can do something about it. It’s not for a Band 1 catering assistant to be telling a nurse who’s in a much higher Band what to do – you can’t get a Band 1 worker to manage a nurse – so it’s really important that the meal service is a team effort.

The sessions have been really good. I particularly liked the ‘4 hander’ session ‘Are You Being Served – a mixed representation of Speakers from around the UK and hearing what’s happening in the different areas. Also having the patient input was really important [Kenny Milne, Patient Focus]. A brilliant exhibition as ever."

Scott Jones, Head of Facilities and Environment, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

"Tommy Whitelaw’s session about Dementia was really touching. I lost my Dad Last October and what he said really struck me. And something that I’ve been banging on about for years: unless caterers are responsible for the meal service at ward level, no matter how good the food is, nurses will always have something better to do than serve it. Something that has been mentioned today is economics – a Band 5 staff nurse costs about £25,000 a year but you can get twice as many catering assistant hours for the same money so economics wise it makes sense to have caterers delivering the ward service instead of highly qualified nursing staff and I think this message has come across. Neil Hiddlestone [Catering Manager, Morriston Hospital, Swansea] touched on this during the panel session. Much of what the Panel Speakers said was complementary – there’s a common approach."

Chris Church, Retired Life Member, past Chairman and Secretary of the Wales Branch

"Nutrition has been the big focus point and I found it interesting to hear what Dr Michael Mosley had to say about fasting – effectively the opposite of nutrition - and the impact it has had on his diabetes, and also the fact that diabetes is on the increase. From my point of view we are looking at malnutrition in hospitals so it’s given a totally different perspective on where we’re going to be in the next 10 to 20 years and what we’re going to be treating as the next ‘current’ disease.

What Michael said was very relevant and what he was saying about fasting made a lot of sense. I think we often do a lot of wrong things in our diets and it’s made me think about what we do in the future – do we continue to pile on the calories for patients especially with those who have nothing wrong with their weight? Are we encouraging them to eat things which aren’t good for them which might cause them problems?

This is my second HCA Conference – my first was Birmingham last year and that was an excellent show – it made a big impact on me. But this year’s Speakers are great too. I really do learn a lot from these events and the challenge for me is to get the messages across to the people I work with.

I was also interested in the concept of the catering team handling ‘the last 9 yards’. I think there is a lot of work to be done to bridge the gap between nursing teams and the catering teams. Delivering the meal service can be an inconvenience to some nursing staff. It’s trying to build on these issues and making sure the patients get a good nutritional meal. I’ve seen it demonstrated a few times where the nursing staff are not sold on the idea of the importance of nutrition. [Referring to Professor Fiona McQueen, the Chief Nursing Officer for NHS Scotland]: I always applaud when I see nursing representatives get up on the stage and address these types of events - we need to see more people on the nursing side joining us in the future to help bridge the gaps so we can promote good nutrition together."

Stephen Humphreys, Contracts Catering Manager, Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust

"Picking up on his colleague, Stephen Humphrey’s comments above, Warren Simister, Assistant Catering Officer, Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust, added: There’s a small gap [between nursing and the catering teams] but it can make a massive difference to the meal service and the patient’s wellbeing. Once you give the meal service to the nursing staff to take over then we lose what we’re trying to do with that meal. As caterers we are producing the food and why would we want to wash our hands of it once it leaves the kitchen? I personally would like to see caterers handling the service right through to the bedside. But you also have to look at serving the patient the right meal – we need to be made aware of any allergies or other special dietary requirements they may have and the nursing staff know about this sort of thing. We need to encourage a closer working relationship between the two to ensure the patient gets the right sort of food.

The highlight for me today was Tommy Whitelaw’s story – it was really touching and it highlights the problems we are facing."

Day 2 – Delegates


"This is my first HCA Forum – I’ve taken my boss’s place and it’s been very good. It’s a bit different to what I expected – more exciting than it looked on paper and I’ve learnt a lot. The James Martin lecture was very good and Tommy Whitelaw was also excellent yesterday. It’s also good to look at the Trade stands and to get some new ideas. I’m not a member of the HCA but now I will join."

Tim Martin, Head Chef, Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust

"This is my first HCA Forum. I was nominated by the East Anglia Branch to take up the Sponsored space. I’ve been a Member for about three years and I’ve started to get more involved with the Branch so I really wanted to come and see what happens. It’s really good – really informative and passionate and I think that because as the NHS we don’t actually talk to each other it’s nice to have the opportunity to speak and find that we all face the same issues, and we’ve got to speak to each other and pool our experiences together because whatever part of the country we’re in it’s all about getting the food to the patients. There’s so much talent in the NHS and it’s getting missed.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Forum – Tommy Whitelaw’s Session on Day One was especially good and it made me think about the dementia work we do and what more we can be doing. It just brought it to the forefront.

We were involved in the second series of James Martin’s programme and I’m glad I heard him today because our impression from seeing the programme was that we didn’t get that much [coverage] because we already had the recipes but it [our involvement] gave us the confidence to improve ourselves. It was especially good to hear how passionate he is about the whole subject. The Exhibition is also really good."

Stewart Nimmo, Head Chef, Queen Elizabeth Hospital

"This is my second HCA Conference and it’s really good, very well organised. I’m staying in the Marriott and the shuttle bus going back and forth to get us here in the morning and back in the evening has been fabulous – nothing’s been a problem at all. The Speakers yesterday who had a true story to tell were really heart wrenching and the message is coming across really strongly – that the HCA isn’t just about the food itself, it’s about what goes on behind the food, the impact and the importance. I joined the Northern Branch last year and I’ve been made to feel welcome and the Members have taken me under their wing. I’m really enjoying being a Member."

Diane Pickering, Facilities Site Manager, Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust

"The Forum’s good, it’s interesting and there’s a lot of networking and good contacts."

Carol Birch, Head of Facilities – Satellite Properties, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

"This is about my 30th Conference and I think it’s going extremely well. The Committee has done really well with a good mix of Speakers and above all it’s nice to see new faces and catch up with old faces. Regarding the Sessions, there’s mixed emotions – my mother died in Mid Staffs with dementia and that touched a nerve and my father went down with Alzheimer's at 57 so you can’t help but be affected. Dementia is a very big issue and it has really focused this Forum. Unfortunately there’s no medicine that can cure dementia at the moment so the issue we can take back with us is how our food can fit the care plans."

Paul Birch, Hotel Services Manager, South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

"It’s been very good this year as always, but more so this year because we hosted it last year so we can really relax and enjoy it. Dr Michael Mosley was absolutely brilliant and Tommy Whitelaw was amazing – he got a standing ovation. The organisation has been good. There are certain things that the Committee has done that have been helpful such as including an outline of the Programme in the name tags and also issuing the CPD (Continuing Professional Development) certificates in advance with the welcome packs, rather than having to go looking for them during the event."

Jane Wills, Hotel Services Supervisor, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

"I’m a new Member of the HCA. I only joined at the beginning of the year and already I’m finding that Membership is really useful. This is my first Forum and the Programme been superb. The Speakers are really good. Yesterday there were some very emotional addresses and James Martin was good today. Probably the biggest thing I’ll take back with me is the passion the Delegates have for their work – it really comes across. The Exhibition is also superb with a lot of interesting and useful information."

Andrea Fearon, Assistant Support Services Manager, NHS Fife.

"It’s been excellent. Day 1 was very interesting with some good Speakers who are passionate about their subjects. But I felt that some Sessions were talking about the same sort of thing we were talking about six or seven years ago - what we should be doing at ward level - and I feel things should have moved on a bit since then. Listening to James Martin who is coming from a different angle - he knows exactly what we should be doing.

The worrying thing from me was hearing people talking about taking the food service away from nursing altogether. I’ve always passionately believed that food is a medicine so therefore the service should have some nurse input somewhere along the line, even if it’s just taking the meal from the trolley and handing it to the patient and making sure it’s eaten. It’s a good idea to have catering involved right up to the point of service but from there the nurses should be involved because what they’ll do – and I’ve seen it happen – is that they’ll send the nurses for lunch while the patients are being fed. Also, not much has been said about Protected Mealtimes which we had a big push about in previous years - how is it going? Is it working?

But overall I’ve enjoyed the Forum and you can’t fault the organisation."

Ron McKenzie, Retired Head of Facilities and Member of the Northern Branch

"It’s been a fantastic Forum. I really enjoyed James Martin and Michael Moseley was superb. The organisation has been really good and my room’s beautiful. Excellent."

Stella Gardener, FM Service Delivery Manager, NHS Property Services Ltd, Royal South Hants Hospital

"Janice and the West of Scotland Branch have pulled off a fantastic Forum especially in its new format and we’ve learnt a great deal over the two days. I found the Panel Session on Day 1 [‘Are you being served?] particularly interesting and the fact that it had Speakers covering England, Scotland and Wales was very useful so we could hear about what they were doing and how they are raising the bar in their own areas. Tommy Whitelaw’s address was very emotional – it pulled on people’s heart strings and it will certainly motivate people to go back to their hospitals and do a better job. James Martin was funny but as a chef himself he’s talking honestly in terms of how he sees it and he understands what a hard job we have, given the budget restraints and all the other issues we face. The organisation has been fantastic, the food beautiful and next year we have a really hard act to follow."

Amanda Cartmill, Catering Manager for Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Forum Secretary for the 2016 HCA National Leadership and Development and Development Forum in Liverpool

"This year I’m ‘on the other side’ [having recently left NHS Supply Chain]. I’m not an Exhibitor, I’m a Delegate and it’s a lot less stressful. I can go around the Exhibition leisurely and I’ve enjoyed it. Everyone is lovely but I’m treated differently now because I’m a potential customer to the Suppliers. I now manage retail contracts for Leeds, looking after all the procurement and contracts from the patient catering perspective and I also look at catering projects as well. Now I can quiz Suppliers more. Previously I wouldn’t have been interested in other Exhibitors’ products whereas now I am.

It’s nice to see new Exhibitors as well – for example Starbucks is here for the first time - and I really encourage the organisers to try to get some new companies involved in future. When you come year after year you tend to see the same Suppliers who like to be here to be seen, but it’s really refreshing to come and see new Exhibitors.

But what I do miss at this event is solutions. I see products and I can go up to any stand, pick up a sample, get a price, but I don’t see solutions. For example, at Leeds, we’re looking at out-of-hours food services for our maternity unit – for parents, expectant fathers who need to stay around for many hours at a time – I’d like ideas around that. I want Suppliers to come up with innovative new ideas. For example, one Exhibitor in packaging is demonstrating gastronorm liner trays – not of interest to us because we’re cook freeze - but that’s a good innovative product. Suppliers need to grab customers and make them look at this stuff. That’s what really interests me.

It’s been good to sit in on the Sessions but my only criticism is that when you have two Sessions or two Speakers one after the other it’s too long to be sitting down when you can’t get a drink. It’s a lot to take in when you’re sitting there for up to two hours at a time. I’d rather have shorter 20 minute sessions and a bit of a break out, followed by another 20 minute session with time in between to stretch your legs and grab a drink."

Kelly Furniss, Service Development Manager, Contract Management and Business Development, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

"I’ve found the Forum quite entertaining. I’ve not been in all the Sessions but those that I have been in I’ve really enjoyed and certainly the feedback from the people I’ve been speaking to has been very positive. Tommy Whitelaw’s Session on Dementia care really stood out for me, not just because it was so emotional, but because so many people connect with it, it’s such a vicious illness and affects so many people and we need to understand what we can do to help. The Speakers I’ve heard I’ve been pleased with. I’m not a total fan of James Martin – I know a lot of people love him but when you listen to someone like Andy Jones [HCA Chair] speaking there’s a passion there that comes with knowledge rather than just being a celebrity who wants to be seen to be doing something."

Craig Smith, Head of Corporate Affairs, Head of Corporate Affairs, ISS Facility Services Healthcare

"This year’s Forum has been really good. Listening to some of the Presentations and hearing about the work that is going on from other caterers is just inspiring. It makes you want to go back to your own hospital and do a better job. It’s been a learning experience for me this year and I really feel that I’ve benefited from coming. The opening stories on Day 1 about how food affects patient care and how food is a medicine – as Andy Jones noted, it saves lives. And I’ve never really thought about the job that I do in that respect before.

It’s given me a whole new outlook on what I do and a new way of being able to talk to my staff when I go back – to be able to tell them what people are saying about us, how important the job is that we do and that we need to keep developing and moving forward.

We do a good job but we can always do better. Coming to events like this really helps, having the time and opportunity to network with people – you can pick up so many new ideas and ways of working from the people you meet to help you move forward in your work."

Craig Holland, Catering Manager, BSMHFT (Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust)

"It was interesting to listen to the Speakers today and to hear about the way they’re looking at patient improvement and rolling the programmes right through to end of care. I’m based in the Tamarind Centre, a mental health male medium secure unit so that brings its own challenges as my patients stay with me for years at a time. I am their carer.

I got a lot from listening to James Martin. It’s nice to have someone with influence trying to work with caterers rather than slagging us off.

Overall, the Forum has been smashing – really good. I’ve made a lot of new acquaintances, met a lot of old friends. The Speakers on Day I were excellent, really emotional and I don’t think anyone in the room didn’t feel a part of that experience – we all know someone who has been ill with mental health problems or dementia or similar and hearing from people like Tommy Whitelaw just brings it home to us. But to see how certain groups are actually improving and expanding on the care they provide to try to bring it back into line with what we expect has been really inspirational."

Ian Poole, Support Services Manager, Summer Hill Supplies [a wholly owned training arm of BSMHFT]

"The Speakers have been brilliant – the organisers have done a really good job. I’ve been to quite a few different conferences but it’s my first HCA event and it’s been fantastic."

Belinda O’Shea, Project Support Officer, NHS National Services Scotland

"The Forum has been very good, very useful and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. I’m here to meet Suppliers – existing ones and potentials for the future - and seeing what innovations are out there to bring back to our business. It’s much easier to meet them in this sort of environment rather than meeting with them separately.

I’ve also been attending the Sessions – they are also very important for us because they help us to determine how best we can support the business of healthcare and share best practice moving forward."

Jason Ellingford, Business Development Manager, Interserve

"Fantastic – well organised as usual. Dr Michael Mosley was fantastic and James Martin was excellent. It’s been very useful. The Exhibition’s also been great."

Steve Whitehead, Catering Manager, Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust

"The content of the Sessions has been excellent. I’m sure everyone’s raving about Dr Michael Mosley but I think there were some hidden messages in his Session – about your own personal resilience, which could have been expanded upon. Because if we don’t look after ourselves better then we’re no good to the rest of our teams. There were some key things in that Session and I think it could have been longer."

Alison McCree, Associate Director of Facilities, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust

"The West of Scotland Branch has done the HCA proud. Every year we push the boundaries and we improve year on year and that can only be beneficial to the patients we serve and the staff and visitors in our hospitals. But this Forum has stood out because we’ve had two great days which have complemented each other. Yesterday was very thought provoking. We got the patients involved and we had teams telling us about the challenges and issues and on Day Two we’ve had Sessions about how we can move forward and the positives and that’s embraced everything that the HCA is about. We’ve looked back on ourselves so we can strive forward. It’s been a wonderful two days. As Outgoing Chair I don’t think I could have asked for a better Forum and team to go out with. It’s been superb - I’ve enjoyed every minute."

Andy Jones, HCA National Chair



"It’s my very first time at an HCA event. I was brought by my supervisor, Muriel Thomson [Deputy Catering Manager, NHS Borders] who thought I’d benefit from seeing what’s going on and it’s been really interesting. I’ve enjoyed it so far. It’s been useful seeing the up-to-date equipment at the Exhibition and I’ve enjoyed the Speakers, especially Thomas Whitelaw I’d definitely like to come back in the future."

Julie Fortune, Catering Supervisor, NHS Borders

"My boss is Stuart McDowell [Forum Member and Hotel Services Manager, NHS Dumfries and Galloway] and he encouraged me to come. I’m not a Member because it’s too far for me to travel to Branch meetings. But it’s been quite interesting, especially listening to James Martin."

Rosie Johnstone, Head Cook, Newton Stewart Hospital, part of NHS Dumfries and Galloway



"I’ve been working in partnership with Tracy Litt and her department to develop the ‘Food to Go Bag’ to give to patients who don’t have any provisions at home when they are discharged. It’s just been launched and it’s going well. We’re using it as an opportunity to promote the hospital’s ‘Meals on Wheels’ Service and also the involvement of AgeUK. Previously, when I was with another Trust, I worked closely with the catering team there and it worked well as a partnership; when patients needed something more bespoke or there was a concern about the food on the ward I knew who to go to, to sort it for them so I understand the close relationship that there should be between the nursing and the catering teams.

The Forum has been fantastic, very useful. The point was made last night that the focus should be on the patients and communicating with them and understanding their needs, rather than us just making the decisions – we need to find out what the patient really wants and make things happen around their requirements. The President’s Dinner was lovely and it was nice to see the men in their kilts. The entertainment was also fantastic, a really good evening.

There’s a huge value in being involved in the HCA. My fellow colleagues don’t necessarily know about the HCA and what it is about. They don’t know how many people are involved and for me to go back and