Foodbuy’s contract with NHS Supply Chain: Food

From supply chain expertise to enhanced menus: encouraging inspiration, mitigating costs and ensuring stability

NHS England (NHSE) is a well-established service that has provided healthcare to the UK for the last 74 years. We are proud that Foodbuy was awarded a major contract by NHS Supply Chain: Food back in 2018, being trusted to manage several food frameworks on behalf of NHS England. Our teams were able to effectively improve the quality and efficiency of the supply chain to ensure high-quality service and value to patients, visitors, and staff.

University Hospitals Leicester (UHL) is one of our key NHS Supply Chain: Food clients who we have built a strong partnership with over the last 5 years of the contract. With three acute sites, over 2000 patient beds, 14,000 staff and multiple restaurants with up to 400 seating capacity, they are just one of the NHS sites which trust our NHS Supply Chain: Food team to understand and support their complex catering operations.

We are thrilled that this partnership with NHS Supply Chain: Food has enabled us to utilise our expertise within such an important sector.

Key Achievements

  • Launched our Chef’s Academy service to provide training and resources specifically for NHS chefs, to create more innovative and efficient kitchens
  • Introduced ‘Culinary Concepts’ to highlight key areas to work on to improve patient, staff, and visitor satisfaction, including strategies on how to introduce more sustainable food options
  • Implemented an NHS-only supply chain model to improve the availability of the supply chain and enhance the efficiency of the procurement process
  • Provided a valuable opportunity for controlled nationwide prices for all trusts

Mixing things up: introducing our Chef’s Academy

At Foodbuy, we’re always looking for ways to bring innovative solutions to our clients. After recognising a gap in training and resources for NHS chefs, Foodbuy launched the award-winning Chef’s Academy in 2020. Our vision for the Chef’s Academy is to upskill and inspire chefs to create more innovative, positive, and efficient kitchens. Participants are exposed to our range of delicious and nutritious recipes and are given the chance to test and learn before putting them into practice. These academies are also timed to capture new starters and provide refresher training, ensuring chefs throughout the NHS are consistently learning new skills and avoiding recipe fatigue. Our support also ensures that meals are constantly reviewed to ensure they are tasty and nutritious, aid patient recovery and include options for differing nutritional needs (children’s menus vs elderly), specialist meals (dysphasic/modified textures), through to lifestyle or religious needs (vegetarian, vegan, halal etc.).

To support the training programme, NHS Supply Chain: Food, provided by Foodbuy, used valuable industry insights and knowledge to develop and produce 7 ‘Culinary Concepts’ to improve patient, staff, and visitor satisfaction. With 200 recipes, each concept is accompanied by a separate analysis showing product codes, cost, nutritional information, and allergens. Being a key area that needed support, one of the 7 concepts is vegetarian and vegan options. The challenges that the trust faced with this concept included navigating customers’ varied opinions on plant-based food, as well as finding effective ways to promote it to such a diverse client base. NHS Supply Chain: Food and UHL collaborated to hold an in-person pop-up event on-site to showcase plant-based food. This aimed to increase positive perceptions surrounding plant-based options. The event displayed a range of great options, as well as how these options can have a positive effect, both nutritionally and environmentally. Following this, catering teams have introduced several meat alternative based dishes onto their standard menus, including Vietnamese rolls and a plant-based chicken tikka masala. This has led to an increase of 10% in sales since implementing the new concept lines.

Innovative distribution

Having a strong and robust supply chain that ensures top-quality service and stock is critical, especially within a healthcare setting where nutrition is such an important factor. Historically within the NHS, the same suppliers have been utilised for many years due to existing relationships and a fear of change. This can lead to pricing complacency, resulting in the trust not receiving the right pricing or new product support. Throughout the trusts, time and money were wasted through managing multiple suppliers at one time. When Foodbuy took over the NHS contract 5 years ago, one of the key changes made was the introduction of an NHS-only supply chain model to help improve the availability of the supply chain and the ordering process. By implementing this, we were able to add agility to, and strengthen, the supply network by having a streamlined focus.

Alongside this, in 2020, Foodbuy provided the NHS with a distribution supply and process designed to deliver a single, direct route to market for chilled, frozen, and ambient products - The Multi-Temperature Distribution Model (MTD). Bidfood, our trusted supplier, was made our distribution partner to deliver multitemperature products to NHS trusts across the country. This also provided an incredibly valuable opportunity for controlled nationwide prices for all trusts. Foodbuy communicated effectively with each trust to understand their food needs, completed price comparisons across the new model and supported with full nutritional and allergen reviews. Foodbuy also supported setting up product templates on the trust ordering system ‘Saffron’ to ensure catering teams could order the right products at the right price with a smooth transition.

Key takeaway

  • Foodbuy supported with value-added services such as the Chefs Academy and culinary concepts, offering a fully rounded solution, from supply chain expertise through to an enhanced food offering.
  • By implementing an NHS-only supply chain model, a strong network was formed to ensure smooth operations at the procurement and delivery levels whilst mitigating and stabilising costs.
  • Alongside this, Foodbuy ensures that menus and recipes are fully costed and nutritionally analysed to support the MTD model. Foodbuy continually works with the trust to offer additional savings to the £63k made in the first year.

Nick Lee, Production & Development Chef at University Hospitals Leicester said:

‘There is still a long way to go, but collaboration has shown to be a real asset to our team and working together helps with my day-to-day running of the business. Pulling the knowledge of the supply chain and the added value they offer has been a real journey and we look forward to the future.’

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