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A taste of the future


As written in Facilitate Magazine, July 2023.


Providing staff with appropriate 24/7 hospital food is a requirement of the National Standards for Healthcare Food and Drink, but it's not a simple task, says Haley-mae Downer, Business Development Director at Compass Group UK & Ireland's One Retail.

NHS England, alongside Compass Group UK & Ireland's Medirest and One Retail sectors, hosted 200 NHS employees, suppliers and food experts to optimise the provision of 24/7 hospital food. The solution is not straightforward. Hospitals need to consider what such an offer will look like, how it will be delivered and how to ensure that quality, value and nutrition are delivered - meeting the different needs of all consumers.

Key takeaways from the discussion.

Nutrition for health and wellbeing

Food and hydration is well documented to be linked to physical and mental health, as well as productivity. Absenteeism costs the NHS £3.79 billion a year. Providing good food and drink options will no doubt support the better health of those that work within the NHS, as well as acting as a tool for the attraction and retention of talent.

Compass Group’s recent Eating at Work Survey found that Gen Z is expected to account for 27% of the global workforce by 2025 and concluded that these younger UK workers are the most vocal working-age demographics advocating for improved non-financial workplace benefits from employers, so it’s important that we’re looking after NHS staff as best we can.



Out-of-hours options will be supported by tech and innovation. The marketing is moving in this direction, overtaking traditional vending. Attendees at the NHS England event heard about 24/7 ‘just walk out’ frictionless store powered by Amazon, self-serve kiosks where people use phones to order, pay and pick up at a convenient time and place, and robots operating in kitchens and restaurants, delivering food and collecting empty trays.  


More than just food

NHS staff work long hours and the round table discussions at the NHS England event found that staff don’t feel they can escape the clinical environments to rest and re-charge. Hospitals need to provide separate quiet spaces, wellbeing areas or restaurants with a totally different environment. Where we have worked with clients to introduce these spaces, we have received great feedback about them.


Supporting our NHS

This is a chance to reinvent current operating and financial models. We see Trusts spending significant amounts to find relevant solutions, but there is an opportunity to rely on external expertise, encouraging partners to collaborate to help alleviate financial and time pressures away from the NHS Trusts. This can create a revenue stream for the hospital and has the potential to save money in other areas of the organisation too.


Doing the right thing

Trusts can also incorporate wider aims including environmental targets, social value and local sourcing through their supply chain. At our event, we heard from one of our partners, Change Please, an award-winning coffee solution that helps homeless people by training them and giving them jobs, as well as investing back into helping homeless people.

We have the opportunity to positively impact the lives of the one and a half million people working for the NHS. NHS staff deserve to have access to good quality, nutritious, delicious food, whether they are working day or night. It’s our job to look after these brilliant people, who look after all of us. It’s time to create a legacy that we are proud to leave behind.”

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National standards for healthcare food and drink