Battle over North Walsham hospital’s meals turns spicier

Extra seasoning has been added to the on-going food fight between North Walsham leaders and NHS chiefs over meals for hospital patients.

The town council has condemned as 'gobbledegook' a letter from Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCH&C) chief executive Sheila Adams-O'Shea justifying the NHS's use of a Cambridge firm to supply meals to Walsham's new hospital when it opens.

Councillors are backing veteran hospital campaigner George Cook who is calling for freshly-cooked food to be prepared in kitchens close to the planned new 24-bed hospital instead, using local suppliers.

In her letter, answering earlier council queries about food provision at the hospital, due to open at the end of the year, Ms Adams-O'Shea said the Cambridge company, Lifespan, sourced its ingredients within 20 miles of its factory and delivered to all NCH&C wards which meant the average food mile per meal was 0.83 miles.

She also cited Lifespan's quality assurance awards including an 'ISO 9001 ... independent accreditation for food safety by STS Solutions to supply chilled food to the NHS and ... an ISO 14001 environmental accreditation'.

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Deputy mayor Dave Robertson described the letter as 'appalling clap trap' and councillor Brian Wexler said it was gobbledegook. He accused the NHS of 'trying to blind us with science.'

They agreed to write to NCH&C saying that they were unimpressed with the arguments for Lifespan and asking when the meals contract would next come up for tender.

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Councillor Liz Cornwall said using local suppliers would also help jobs and the area's economy and it was nonsense to talk about environmental benefits when the food had to come all the way from another county.

Mr Cook, 85, of Grange Court, North Walsham, who fought to save the hospital when its future was under threat in 2006-2007, addressed the latest town council meeting and urged councillors not to give up the struggle.

He believes kitchens at the neighbouring county-council run Rose Meadow care home could be used to cook meals for patients and fears if the town doesn't push for action before the new hospital is built, the battle will be lost.

Mr Cook listed a number of local food producers he said would be willing to supply the new hospital. They included Walsham-based potato firm RBR Crops. Managing director Michael Brighton told the EDP and North Norfolk News he agreed that it did not make sense to transport food from Cambridge when there were kitchens at Rose Meadow and his firm would be happy to supply the hospital.

Carol Lendrum, (NCH&C) head of facilities, said Lifespan's meals were of a very high standard and met patients' nutritional needs.

The arrangement was reviewed annually and NCH&C would 'consider other feasible options in the future'.

She added: 'However, we are very happy with our current provider and satisfied that it continues to offer an excellent catering service which meets our patients' needs, is safe and cost effective'.

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