“The truth is that this is the best institutional food that I have ever eaten and I’ve eaten in schools, hospitals, and prisons all over the place. I think it’s amazing.”
That was the review given by Great British Bake Off star Prue Leith after she tasted some of the 50 different meals now on offer for patients at St Richard’s Hospital after a £3m investment. Joined by health secretary Matt Hancock and Chichester MP Gillian Keegan, Prue officially opened the city hospital’s brand new kitchen, before the VIPs served patients with meals cooked at the new facility yesterday afternoon (Thursday, January 30).
The new kitchen will serve up to 3,000 meals a day, including food locally-sourced from farms and businesses in the county.
Speaking to the Observer, Prue, a regular judge on Great British Bake Off, said she ‘didn’t find a single thing to complain about’.
She added: “That is not like me. “As soon as I came in here, everyone was enthusiastic, excited about the new kitchen, had worked tremendously hard to get it here, and everyone from the nurses to the doctors to the catering staff believe that food is important.
“They’ve done it and they’ve done it absolutely brilliantly. It’s a really good kitchen that will still be here in 40 years.”
Matt Hancock MP, secretary of state for health and social care, said Chichester ‘should be incredibly proud’ of the hospital.
He added: “It’s one of the best in the country. You can really feel is that all the staff care about delivering the best possible care for patients, including the food. I thought it was delicious and better than anything I’ve cooked at home.
“It’s absolutely terrific to be here, firstly to learn about the food and secondly to say congratulations and thank you to all the staff who work here.
“Food is so important to recovery. It’s important for nutrition of course but it’s important for morale, if you’re stuck in hospital one of the few things you look forward to is the food.
“I want to improve hospital food right across the country, and we’ve come here to St Richard’s to learn what good looks like.
“I would love to see the quality here in Chichester be the norm across the country.”
Prue, who joined a government review into hospital food last year in order to bring meals up to higher standards, said she accepted the invite to come to St Richard’s after a conversation with MP Matt Hancock.
She added: “He rung me up and said we have to do something about food. He cooks with his children, he thinks food is nutrition, food is medicine.
“He said all the right things. He told me we are setting up a review panel, made up of mostly NHS staff who know what the problems are. They work in the system and make improvements in their own patch.
“I had breakfast with the Prime Minister if there would be funding behind it as change does not happen without money.
“It’s not necessarily about the ingredients, it’s about the kitchens, the infrastructure, the training and changing the attitude of the entire hospital. You have to get food up the priority of food culture.
“The attitude of any organisation comes from the top. I would imagine that the top people are good here and the hire the right people. They inspire the staff and it works.”
Marianne Griffiths, CEO of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said it was a ‘joy’ to be visited by Prue, who ‘represents good food across the nation’.
“People have been really excited about her coming and she has said such lovely and positive things about what she has seen here,” she said. “It gives a real lift to our staff who have worked incredibly hard. We are absolutely thrilled.”
The kitchen is a big step and it's taken a number of years to get here but we always know, when we get feedback, the food is always more tricky to get things right. It's about range of foof and having a variety.
"We've done a huge amount of work with our patients, our nutritionists, our dieticians to come up with a really exciting menu. There are 50 different choices which are absolutely fantastic and really high calibre."
Credit: Sam Morton, Chichester Observer.
Published: Thursday February 6, 2020.