The Merseyside and North Wales Branch of the Hospital Catering Association is hosting the HCA's National Leadership and Development Forum at the ACC (Arena and Convention Centre) in Liverpool, on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 April 2016.

Each year the Association's national event promotes a theme. The Forum theme for 2016, 'With a little help from my friends', underlines achievement through collaborative working 'with our friends', and this is what the 2016 Leadership and Development Forum is all about.

People are living much longer and the challenges posed by patients with chronic medical conditions are great. Obesity is a massive issue as is malnutrition and we have a soaring number of people with long-term medical conditions such as diabetes and dementia, with the likelihood that double pressure on the service could cause a £30 billion deficit by 2020, and the costs are growing year on year. Consequently, it has never been more important for the HCA to forge ahead with our plans for improvement.

If our focus is united, patients will reap the benefits. So these 'friends' we're working with are our patients, fellow caterers, clinicians, dietitians, suppliers, the Government and other national organisations and associations… In other words, anyone using hospital services or working in the field of healthcare provision.

Our patients' health and well-being is at the centre of why the Association exists and thrives. We are proud to be part of the NHS, delivering a vital service to patients and Trust staff. And as part of the NHS we must continually raise the bar with our standards, producing quality nutritious food that meets the patients' needs, and provides good value for money.

The HCA is aiming to lead 'from the front'; putting the patient first in our daily routines, whether that is in staffing structures, financial controls, menu planning, bedside booklets or procurement of food and equipment. We're calling for the caterer to take control of the patients' food and nutrition from admittance through to discharge, and we're also focusing on the ward end service – the last few steps of the food journey – in the HCA led initiative known as the 'Last 9 Yards'. We're urging our Members to buy differently, using seasonal food, to think about opening hours and pressures of pay and to encourage the up skill training of our service teams to get them to the appropriate professional levels.

This collaborative approach, 'with a little help from our friends', underpins the core values of the NHS, working with care, competence, compassion and courage with commitment – striving to be 'the best'. And of course, communication, realising that by sharing the work we do, together we can really make a difference.

Integral to the Forum is an 80+ strong Exhibition giving our Suppliers a direct access opportunity to demonstrate their latest developments and products to captive key decision makers.

Relevant to and attended by Catering Managers, Facilities Managers, Dietitians, Chief Executives, Executive Nursing Directors, Clinical Nurse Managers, NHS staff and any Supplier to a healthcare organisation, the HCA 2016 L&D Forum is a tailored leadership and development event with unique learning and networking opportunities for professionals involved in catering production and service to the healthcare industry.