Chilling with Central Catering

Tracey Sopp, our Managing Director, joined Andrew Short, Head of Facilities, on a visit behind the scenes with our Central Catering Team. They got an insight into the work that goes on to keep patients fed, catering for a whole range of bespoke needs and making sure the right patient gets the right meal at the right time. They met the dedicated teams who make all of this happen and even heard how some of the hardy staff work in the freezer area, kept at a decidedly chilly minus nineteen degrees.

The team are based at Saint Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth and coordinate in-patient meals for the North, Central and South sectors of Cumbria Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, NHS Foundation Trust. A huge amount of work goes in to making sure that the meals are nutritious as well as tasty and that there is sufficient variety. There is a four week menu cycle with multiple choices, meaning that in theory, someone could go three months before they ate the same meal twice.

As an in-patient, people can’t go to the fridge and choose a meal or go out and choose from a range of restaurants. The team understand how important food is in the lives of in-patients and Tracey and Andrew heard first hand how seriously the team take that responsibility. The team cater for all needs, including texture modified foods, vegetarian and vegan menus, as well as ensuring people with allergies and those with cultural and religious beliefs have a variety of meal options as well. They also cater for events and occasions such as birthdays and other noteworthy events that might be taking place on a ward.

The team work in a chilled environment of approximately 3°C as they are preparing patient meals. There is also a large freezer which operates at -19°C and staff spend time in between the frozen and chilled environments. Despite feeling her own limbs start to freeze, Tracey heard how some staff are so used to working in this cold environment, that in some cases they feel they could work in there in just a T-shirt.

Tracey had a go at getting the meals ready for one particular ward. As the meals are all ordered specifically by the patients it’s important that the orders are exactly right and that people get what they are expecting. Tracey used the packing list to search the fridge and freezer areas for all of the required items, under the watchful eye of the team.

Andrew helped prep some fresh salads before they were sent off to the wards. Some items are bought in from our range of suppliers but where it is effective and efficient for us to do so we cook and prepare things ourselves. This includes everything from fresh salads to delicious fruit crumbles.

Tracey and Andrew saw the pride the team has in delivering such an important service to a very high standard.