Wessex Branch News

From Chris Lay

As I keep hearing people say, “we are certainly living in interesting times.”

I watched The BBC’s One Show during the week commencing 29 March when Dr Sarah Jarvis talked about stories she’d heard about ‘there being no food service for hospital staff except for a two-hour window and further stories of empty vending machines.’ This was further compounded by Matt Lucas talking about a charity he had helped set up to supply donated food to NHS staff in the hospital setting in and around London. I also read about ‘NHS Charities Together’, ‘Meals For The NHS’ (mentioning £5 per meal) and a story about the daughter of Formula 1’s ex-team principal, Ron Dennis, who is an anaesthetist at John Radcliffe in Oxford, setting up a staff feeding initiative with ‘Salute The NHS’.

As a result, I set about asking the following of the Branch: “I’m seeing lots of news articles about outside agencies/cafés/pubs/takeaways providing meals/food to NHS staff. It would be nice to be able to ‘turn this story around’ and publicise the great work our members are doing in feeding their staff. Any news and/or pictures from members would be much appreciated.”

In terms of non-COVID-19 information: I was delighted to travel up to HRC (Hotelympia in old money) on 5 March to support all six teams in the HCA’s Live Team event but, especially, Mark Seales and Jamie Bolam, from Freeman Hospital. Mark and Jamie are adopted sons to Wessex because they regularly support our own Salon Culinaire. Every team medalled and Jamie and Mark obtained a well-deserved bronze for their endeavours.

Sadly – like many things – we had to postpone our own Salon Culinaire but we very much hope to be able to run the event later in the year.

We have had to adapt to new ways of working, and although our membership is relatively healthy, trying to get everyone together does prove problematic but we tried many different approaches in terms of days, timing and frequency. And so it was that Wessex held its first ever ZOOM meeting on 28 April. Hosted by Stella Gardner, our Branch Secretary, we probably had more Full Members attend than we’ve had in a long time. Has the current crisis given us a solution to a problem? Only time will tell but the Branch has motioned the Treasurer to purchase a ZOOM subscription for the year so that more meetings can be held.

Finally, many of you may remember John Britton, who used to be District Catering Manager for Basingstoke and North Hampshire. He retired ‘a few’ years ago and its my pleasure to meet up with John from time to time.

John still regales about his time in the NHS and has many happy memories. When we last met, just before lockdown, John asked if I could ask if any members remember a Hungarian character from his past called (he thinks) Paul Schwartz, who was also a District Catering Manager. If anyone has any information to help John find Paul, I am happy to act as a conduit and pass it on.

I think that’s everything from Wessex so stay safe, stay well and keep up your amazing work for the NHS.

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