The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) Leadership and Development Forum 2017, took place at the Europa Hotel in Belfast on 6-7 April.
This year’s event, organised by the Northern Ireland branch of the HCA, had the theme ‘Seize the Moment - Deliver the Future.’
The forum was opened by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Brian Kingston and outgoing president of the HCA Fionnuala Cook, along with forum chair, Dr Wendy Austin and Elsa Witherspoon, forum secretary.
Witherspoon (pictured right), said: “The National Health Service has some significant challenges to overcome and irrespective of which part of the UK you work in these challenges are just the same across the four nations.
“We had some excellent speakers representing the NHS, governing bodies and industry, who shared their thoughts and vision for the future.
“In Northern Ireland, we have an integrated Health & Social Care system and the experts at our forum helped explore and compare all the systems across the four nations to deliver a safe, quality, fit for purpose service in the future.”
The event was Phil Shelley’s second - and last forum - as national chair of the HCA, before he handed over the baton to Stewart McKenzie.
Shelley said: “This year’s forum included a fantastic line-up of speakers, covering a number of thought-provoking topics.
“We are all aware of the many pressures facing the NHS, but with continued collaboration and platforms like the HCA forum promoting best practice, we will be in a better position to respond to them.”
Shelley (pictured below) officially launched the HCA’s Four Nations report on hospital catering services throughout the UK, at the forum.
The report surveyed more than 400 branch members across some 266 NHS hospital Trusts. It looked at catering options such as cook-serve, cook-chill, cook-freeze or delivered in and whether food is being cooked in-house, contracted-out, or a combination of the two.
The keynote address for the first day of the forum was delivered by John Compton, former chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board.
The author of Transforming Your Care: A Review of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland, who now works as a health and social care management consultant, provided an overview of the NHS in Northern Ireland.
He explored how professionals can respond to the challenges being faced across the four nations of the UK, both now and in the future.
Meanwhile, Christine Armstrong, regional lead of ‘10,000 Voices’ gave a talk about the importance of recognising patient experience as a key element in the delivery of quality healthcare.
Other speakers for the first day of the forum included Patricia McKeown, regional secretary, Unison Northern Ireland and Tom Frawley, former Northern Ireland Ombudsman.
Dame Mary Peters, Olympic gold medallist 1972, along with Tony O’Hara, a catering services manager working in the Belfast NHS Trust, considered the importance of the health and wellbeing of staff and what caterers are doing to promote healthy eating and good health.
The second day of the forum featured a keynote address from Roy Lilley, health policy analyst, writer, broadcaster and commentator on the NHS and social issues.
In his talk entitled ‘The Moment Influences the Future’, Lilley provided his view on the current state of the NHS and how he sees things developing in the future.
Alison McCree, director of estates and facilities, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust was joined by Shelley the outgoing HCA chair and facilities manager at Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.
The session focused on delivering the future through improved financial control while meeting the quality agenda.
McCree outlined some of the financial pressures facing the NHS, and questioned whether the NHS is ‘broke’ or just poor at managing resources.
She put forward suggestions around understanding costs, while Shelley shared his thoughts on how the HCA can deliver improvements through greater collaboration with several professional bodies - including recent partnerships formed with Food for Life and the Health Estates & Facilities Management Association (HEFMA).
McCree said: “I was happy to be part of the forum as it’s an opportunity for NHS colleagues to learn from one another and to share good practice and service developments from their respective organisations.
“As with other sectors we are all facing the same challenges in having to deliver more with less. The aim of my session was to reinforce the importance of using the wealth of data, which we have within the NHS to improve efficiency and productivity across the services for which we are accountable.”
Forum guests also heard from: Olive MacLeod, chief executive, Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority Northern Ireland; Paul Coulson, divisional manager, Serco; Wendy-Ling Relph, matron for nutrition and quality improvement, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust and David Meade, a researcher and lecturer in international business at Ulster University.
The HCA’s new website, which has been designed with an improved members’ area, a wider range of resources and a sharing portal to promote the work of the organisation, was officially launched at the forum.
The event also included a supplier exhibition showcasing the latest equipment, products and services for healthcare catering and the HCA Annual General Meeting.
In addition, the President’s Dinner and awards ceremony was held at Titanic Belfast on the Thursday night (6 April) and served as Fionnuala Cook’s last dinner as national president.