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Collaborating with the NHS to Achieve the National Standards for Healthcare Food and Drink 2022

14 November 2022

NHS Supply Chain: Food welcomes the publication of the new, enhanced National Standards for Healthcare Food and Drink, published in November 2022. We support its aims to encourage increased well-being for hospital staff and visitors, optimal health outcomes for patients, and the introduction of a focus on sustainability, procurement and food waste. The standards are made up of all of the existing and relevant food and drink standards – for example from the British Dietetic Association (BDA) Nutrition and Hydration Digest, Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services, including sugar and salt reduction initiatives, all backed by scientific evidence.

See our Useful Links section to read the full National Standards for Healthcare Food and Drink 2022.

It is expected that trusts will carefully study the standards and measure their current position to identify the steps needed to strengthen their position. There will be questions and decisions to be made on cost, workforce and working practices. We are here to support you in the most appropriate way effectively and hope that all healthcare sites can move to a position of strength in the coming months.

NHS Supply Chain: Food is proud to have worked closely with NHS England (NHSE) throughout the development of the Independent Review of Hospital Food and the new National Standards for Healthcare Food and Drink 2022. This relationship continues with our participation in the ‘expert groups,’ that aim to implement the recommendations of the Independent Review of Hospital Food and our ongoing national programme of Chef’s Academies.

There are eight standards that all NHS organisations are required to meet. The standards are covered in four sections:

Section 1: All healthcare food and drink
Section 2: Patient food and drink
Section 3: Retail, staff and visitor food and drink
Section 4: Sustainable procurement and food waste.

In this review, we have identified – how we can support the NHS in achieving these standards.

Section 1: All healthcare food and drink

Organisations must invest in a high calibre workforce, recognising the complex knowledge and skills required by chefs

Investing in food service teams is important. We began the award-winning Chef’s Academy events in 2020 after recognising a gap in training and resources for NHS chefs. Free events are held across the country at culinary colleges and in NHS Trusts. This gives the opportunity for catering staff to network with not only other NHS Chefs but knowledge sharing with innovative culinary experts like Nick Vadis. The aim of the Chefs Academy is to highlight, teach and showcase professional skills while driving standards and improvement in food. We are so pleased to have held 18 events with over 140 attendees to date and received widespread support and recognition from the industry as well as having an overall satisfaction rating of 9.7 out of 10. Our academies contribute to the modern apprenticeship standards end-point assessments (apprenticeships.gov.uk) and can be used in evidence to reinforce the knowledge and practical experience gained through the course of the apprenticeship. Along with the Chefs Academy, we also run pop-up events within trusts. This gives trusts the opportunity to consult with our team and identify how our culinary concepts can be suited to a trusts audience and demographics. Alongside this, the NHS Supply Chain: Food Culinary and Dietetics Team will cook, serve, analyse and evaluate through sales and feedback to determine the effectiveness of our culinary concepts.
We continue to hold these hands-on training events and encourage NHS catering teams to See our Useful Links section and register interest in future events or ask for more information from your NHS Supply Chain: Food Account Manager.
Our ambition is to continue to upskill and inspire NHS chefs through our innovative new recipes and share the knowledge and passion of our in-house culinary team.

Attracting chefs into healthcare, and the Public Sector as a whole, is extremely challenging… The Chef’s Academy has already become a prominent part of promoting culinary skills within healthcare. Nick Vadis and Michael Sharp bring a wealth of experience to the Chef’s Academy sessions and what they have created can only be described as innovative and inspiring…

Phil Shelley, Chair of the NHS Hospital Food Review, Senior Operational and Policy Manager, NHS England

Section 2: Patient food and drink

Demonstrate compliance with British Dietetic Association (BDA) Nutrition and Hydration Digest.

The BDA Nutrition and Hydration Digest (BDA Digest) is a key guide to nutrition standards for all hospital patients in England. It has been part of the government hospital food standards since 2014. The third edition is currently being developed and is due to be published later this year. Our in-house Dietitian is a member of the BDA team of dietitians, with wide-ranging experience in clinical dietetics and food service.
Our dietetics team are well-versed in the BDA Digest and is here to support the application of its guidance to our food and drink products. This includes liaising with suppliers directly to explain nutritional guidelines and how to meet them, as well as with NHS trusts, on how to incorporate these guidelines into purchasing decisions. One recent example is the dietetics team supporting a trust to have the required two snacks a day for patients on their menus, and sourcing suitable items that met their needs. Working with our in-house culinary team, they are constantly driving standards to update and improve the culinary concepts to be healthier and nutritious options for patients. NHS Supply Chain: Food is committed to analysing, evaluating and improving the quality of the information and services we supply, to be utilised by NHS trusts.
The BDA Digest is also an integral part of our framework agreements, so our suppliers are aware of the NHS nutritional targets.
Going forwards the NHS Supply Chain: Food team will continue to consult with and apply the guidance within the BDA Digest as it is a vital tool in supporting the procurement and use of healthy and nutritious food to the NHS.

NHS Supply Chain: Food have a vast range of food and drink products, culinary and dietetics services that support NHS Trusts to meet the newly published National Standards for Healthcare Food and Drink. The culinary team and dietetic teams work together to support Trusts with recipes that are suitable for nutritionally well and nutritionally vulnerable patients as well as for staff and visitors. They also provide training and expertise for Trusts to enable them to meet the nutritional recommendations in the BDA Nutrition and Hydration Digest and the public health guidance on healthy eating e.g. fat, saturate fat, sugar and salt.

Jo Instone, Net Zero Food Programme Dietician, NHS England

Section 3: Retail, staff and visitors

Organisations must assess their retail food and drink service against the principles of the British Dietetic Association’s (BDA) Environmentally sustainable diets nine-point plan.

The One Blue Dot project is the British Dietetic Association’s (BDA) Environmentally Sustainable Diet Project. It states that “Up to 30 per cent of greenhouse house gas (GHG) emissions globally are linked to agriculture and food production, and the environmental impact of the food we eat is one of the key changes we can make to tackle the issue of climate change.” We agree that more can be done to support sustainability with regard to food consumption. It’s a priority for the team and reflected in the NHS Net Zero Report, which we support.
There are nine areas covered in the BDA’s One Blue Dot, and for each, our NHS Supply Chain: Food team have analysed how this applies to our range of products.

Organisations must implement the Government Buying Standards for Food (GBSF) Nutrition Standards.

In recognition of the new Government Buying Standards for Food (GBSF) Nutrition Standards released late 2021, and their importance, the NHS Supply Chain: Food team have produced a service which enables customers to better understand the nutritional elements of the food they purchase from our frameworks – our GBSF Nutritional Scorecard service.
This service looks into the products purchased from our frameworks and provides an evaluation showing how compliant they are to the GBSF nutritional standards.
This will provide NHS trusts with a better understanding of their food supply chain, shows evidence against which areas are compliant, and opportunities for switching to alternative products to increase compliance. It has received some great feedback.

The GBSF nutritional scorecard is an excellent tool. It collates all your purchasing information and benchmarks where your Trust is against the nutritional standards as laid out in the GBSF. All in an easy-to-use report. As a caterer, all the hard work of analysing your purchasing is done for you and it is easy to identify any gaps where improvements can be made ensuring compliance with the standards. This is a must-use service for hospital caterers.

Iain Robertson, Catering Services Manager, Solent NHS Trust

We support the ambition to promote health and nutrition via food procurement. An example of this is the recent change in pack size to some of the most popular sugar-sweetened beverages on our frameworks. The reduction of 380ml to 330ml brings these products in line with the mandatory GBSF standard to reduce availability of sugar to staff and visitors of the NHS.

Organisations must continue to meet previous CQUIN standards 2017 – 2019

In 2017, CQUIN was launched as an incentive for trusts to implement changes that will improve the health and wellbeing of their workforce. Healthy food for NHS staff, visitors and patients was one of the three elements covered.
Actions that could be taken in practice by NHS Trusts include banning price promotions, advertising, and product placement at checkouts of food and drink with high sugar, fat, and salt content, as well as making healthy food for those on night shifts more readily available.

To support trusts in making these changes, we offer a retail excellence programme of advice and resources from our team and suppliers. Reach out to your local NHS Supply Chain: Food Account Manager to find out more.
The GBSF Nutritional Scorecard does support some elements of CQUIN. For example, it assesses compliance with calorie targets for confectionery, sweets and sandwiches, and sugar targets in beverages. Therefore, can be used as a guide to achieving this goal.

Organisations must provide access to hot food and drink 24/7

By offering a wide range of products across our nine frameworks we can cater to providing access to healthy food and drink options out of hours. We also support the focus this has on improved well-being for staff and visitors.
Our hot beverages and vending solutions framework of products was relaunched in November 2020 and was designed in part to provide greater access to healthy food for staff 24/7. We recognised the importance of this through our work with NHS trusts, and the recommendations of the Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food 2020.
These include hot soup, healthy hot meal and salad vending machine options, as well as a wider range of hot drinks machines.
The support the NHS Supply Chain: Food team offer alongside these options has led to great results at NHS trusts. One example is at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where a project to implement 24/7 access to hot food vending has increased access to healthy food options, delivering savings to the team.

Section 4: Sustainability, procurement, and food waste

Organisations must assess their food and drink against Government Buying Standards for Food (GBSF)

The GBSF are fundamental to our work and are included in our tender documents, which form the basis of our procurements to source food and drink products for the NHS.
As illustrated by the extra service we offer around GBSF, we are committed to making these standards more accessible to NHS trusts and supporting increased compliance where possible.


Organisations must assess their food waste, and also set waste reduction targets and minimisation plans

Within the new hospital food standards, it was noticed that 34% of food is wasted within public services, 40% of which is carbohydrates. Although we don’t have control over food waste in NHS trusts, we have developed a methodology to analyse and reduce food and related waste for ready-prepared meals. Chefs Academies, food forums and pop-ups ensure that food waste reduction is at the heart of what we do and that they are utilised as platforms to discuss practical ways within NHS kitchens and restaurants to reduce food waste. This is achieved by promoting and demonstrating how following specifications, methodology and planning can be utilised, as well as training culinary teams to innovate and utilise less common ingredients, which can contribute to a reduction in waste.
See our Useful Links section to read how Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, put into practice our food waste methodology and reduced ward-level food waste by 6% and delivered annual financial savings of £101,000.
We aim to focus on this area going forward and find new and innovative ways to support trusts to reduce food waste. NHS Supply Chain: Food is part of the ‘Independent Review of Hospital food expert group’ on this topic.


Organisations must commit to stop procuring single-use plastic items for catering.

Our NHS Supply Chain: Food team focuses on procuring food and drink items for the NHS, however NHS Supply Chain: Hotel Services supplies and procures single-use items through the Catering Consumables and Equipment framework. As part of the NHS’s drive to become net zero by 2045, one of NHS Supply Chain’s sustainability priorities is the ongoing commitment to reducing the use of plastics in the products we supply to NHS trusts. See our Downloads ▼ section to download a copy of the single-use plastics alternatives brochure offering trusts the opportunity to switch to more sustainable catering consumable products.

Organisations must use the supplier roadmap.

NHS Supply Chain: Food are ultimately part of the NHS family, and as such, work in tandem with NHS England.. Our sustainability goals are aligned to the wider NHS sustainability goals and the NHS Net Zero Report. Included is a commitment to initiatives like the Net Zero Supplier Roadmap, which we will be implementing with our range of 190+ suppliers by April 2023.

We are already working with our suppliers to gather information on their sustainability practices and asking them to complete Government assessment tools on modern slavery, and carbon, waste, and water reduction in their companies. This will continue as our focus on sustainability and our supply base grows.

Catherine Stephens, Sustainability Champion at NHS Supply Chain: Food, and Governance and Compliance Lead

Downloads ▼

  • Download our Single-Use Plastics Alternatives Brochure

    Our Catering Consumables and Equipment framework offers trusts the opportunity to switch to more sustainable catering consumable products.