Government Buying Standards

Government Buying Standards

HCA Exhibition April 16-17, Glasgow. Stand 40

What are Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering?

Government Buying Standards (GBS) formerly known as buy sustainable quick wins, were devised by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The standards enable government buyers across the public sector to buy sustainable products.

The Food and Catering standards were introduced by Defra in 2011 after a successful trial in a number of public sector organisations and were developed by a cross-government steering group including the Department of Health.

The aims of the food standards

Government Buying Standards identify food as one of the priority categories and there are clear opportunities for procurers in the NHS to comply with these standards in order to increase the overall performance, delivery and quality of hospital food served in the NHS.

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The Government Buying Standards for food and catering includes a suite of critieria covering three areas of sustainable procurement:

  • Foods produced to higher sustainability standards - where is food produced to higher environmental standards such as fish from sustainable sources, seasonal fresh food, animal welfare and ethical trading considerations.
  • Foods procured and served to higher nutritional standards - to reduce salt, saturated fat and sugar and increase consumption of fibre, fish, fruit and vegetables.
  • Procurement of catering operations to higher sustainability standards - including equipment, waste and energy management.

Purchasing against one or more of these criteria will help procurers meet the requirements of GBS for Food and Catering Services and should be adopted by the NHS as standard and supported by procurement practices.

Significant evidence exists to suggest that a migration towards these standards would help to support the positive development of hospital food.

GBS are therefore an opportunity for procurement professionals across all public sector organisations and as part of this were included in the NHS Operating framework (See clause 3.15). The Department of Health outlines a set of basic principles covering the quality of food, nutritional content and choice for patients which will be published alongside guidance for all hospitals backed up by PLACE - a new system of patient-led assessments.

For more information on the Government Buying Standards background visit the Defra website.

How does NHS Supply Chain help with Patient-Led Assessments of the Care Environment (PLACE)?

The Department of Health outlines a set of basic principles covering the quality of food, nutritional content and choice for patients which will be published alongside guidance for all hospitals backed up by PLACE, a new system of patient-led assessments.

NHS Supply Chain are currently undertaking an engagement programme on The Government Buying Standards for food and catering with our suppliers. Our food team have a schedule of work for 2013 with the objective of identifying items which comply with the criteria of Government Buying Standards and in turn making this transparent to NHS trusts and encouraging uptake.

This important piece of work has already started with our framework agreement for Ready Prepared Meals and we have published the information within the food and catering section of our website. We are taking a phased approach to this project and over the coming months this information will be available on more on more food contracts, demonstrating the benefits to trusts of using our framework agreements.

By working with NHS Supply Chain in 2013, we will help you to have greater visibility of products that comply with the critiera of The Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering so you can start to build this into your procurement decisions.

Government Buying Standards Press release.

How are we supporting Government Buying Standards?

As agents of the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA), we are committed to supporting the Government Buying Standards for Food and have been working with suppliers to provide our customers with the information they need to buy sustainable food.

Our aim

Our aim is to support the Department of Health in its initiatives to raise awareness of the GBSF agenda to both suppliers and NHS procurers in order to drive through improvements in the standards of food in the NHS.

Good procurement is sustainable procurement

We support the overarching commitment that good procurement is sustainable procurement. To back this we are undertaking a programme to engage with both suppliers and customers to raise awareness of the Government Buying Standards on food, and have committed to include information of compliant products within all future food tenders.

This is a long term initiative and is being built into our normal tender lifecycle giving suppliers the opportunity to highlight their products that meet the set criteria.

Our suppliers - GBSF products 

A number of suppliers are already supporting Goverment Buying Standards for Food with a range of products that meet the set criteria. To support this we are looking to develop ‘product flagging’ within our online catalogue to highlight those foods that comply to make it easier for our customers to buy sustainably.

Government Buying Standards are a key focus and respresent a significant piece of work for the food and catering team. There are clearly opportunities for trusts to enhance sustainability and nutritional credentials by procuring compliant products. NHS Supply Chain has committed to a programme of work across our food frameworks to make this information visible and transparent to NHS customers throughout 2013.

This activity is progressing and is monitored by the Department of Health through the Improving Hospital Food Delivery group. Over the next few months we will be adding more suppliers and more product areas to the website so make sure you keep up to date by visiting our website.

We are also looking into other ways of communicating compliance to our customers and suppliers. More information will be available on this during the next few months.

For more information on Government Buying Standards, view criteria.

View Ready Prepared Meals suppliers currently on the framework and compare products.

Contact Us

For further information please contact our buyer for meal solutions. Alternatively you can speak to your account manager.

Kathryn Browne


Tel: 01344 384709

Delivering value to the NHS