Tag Archives: James Martin

Has NHS scared off James Martin?

James Martin, British celebrity chef

NHS patients

throw away




We’ve all seen attempts before to change NHS culture, notably when Gerry Robinson came in and demanded to know why hospital operating theatres close at mid-day on a Friday.

But although Robinson’s TV programme asked many questions, and suggested excellent solutions, the NHS still carry on wasting OUR money, and nothing changed.

Same seems to have happened to the excellent work done by TV Chef James Martin.  After having produced an enjoyable and thought-provoking TV series on food at Scarborough  hospital – he’s disappeared.

Emails arrive, asking me how people can contact James as they want to see if their hospital could hire him – but no reply from him, his PR company or the production company.

NHS Waste

Now comes a report saying one in twelve hospital meals is returned uneaten.

According to NHS Trusts, this is costing over £22 million a year.

What is worse, seven Trusts admit that one in five meals is returned – so WHY haven’t they called in Martin?  What is this waste food costing the NHS, let alone the patients’ health?

And the Care Quality Commission are about to issue a report warning of poor NHS practice over nutrition for the elderly.

James Martin’s excellent series made many sensible points, from nutrition to pricing – but the NHS tends to aim for the lowest common denominator – rather than aiming for excellence  (it’s easier).


In the TV series, Pat Ball, Sharon and their team at Scarborough Hospital were right behind James, showing that patients can be given tasty, nutritious food – but to pay for this James had set up a restaurant aiming to make a profit which will be ploughed back into hospital food.


The scary thing is, when the financial administration look at the books at the end of the year, Pat is going to have to fight very, very hard to keep any profit for the catering dept.


We all wish her luck.  She is going to need it to fight off greedy financial gurus wanting to get their hands on any profit.

Bringing in meals

Currently statistics say that 2/3rds of patients will have a meal bought in for them; a very sorry state, but something that happens all round the country.

Even the Doctors at our local hospital (Chelsea and Westminster – supposedly NHS flagship) queue up every lunchtime at Tray Gourmet, a privately-run caterer opposite the hospital,  to buy their baguettes because they are tastier.    Even Michael Winner sent out for their baguettes when he was a patient earlier this year.

But when I approached I.S.S (the hospital caterers) to ask why they couldn’t bring in a private firm that was offering fresh fruit nicely packaged, from a stall outside the hospital’s area – a very dismissive email zinged back, saying I.S.S. supplied fruit.

Yes – they do.  French apples and other fruit from abroad.  But if patients choose a piece of fruit, they can’t have a pudding as well.  And elderly people don’t have the teeth to bite into those hard, sour French apples.

Hospitals should lead the way

Following on from James Martin’s plea to get people eating local produce, why not get NHS hospitals to host Farmers’ markets  on their forecourts, in car parks, atriums, parks, gardens or other areas?  These could not only bring in extra income, but would also show patients and visitors the way to buy healthier food and support British farming.

And echo what Martin was trying to put across in his programme, when he took Scarborough Hospital’s catering staff out to meet local producers.

Royal Brompton Hospital

Again and again this hospital is singled out for excellence in food.  Yet somehow I don’t see a queue of hospital administrators following.

Those of us who have been lucky enough to be patients at the Brompton (lauded in the TV programme) know that their policy of buying free range, local and where possible organic produce pays dividends.  I still lick my lips when I remember their signature liver dish – scrummy!  And I wouldn’t have minded eating it again, if menus are on a weekly cycle.  As one patient remarked when asked if he minded dishes being repeated;  he couldn’t even remember what he ate yesterday – let alone a week before.

Soil Association encouraging better nutrition

The Soil Association (SA) say “We think that good food should always be on the menu in hospitals – to help people get better and improve staff morale”.

“In 2010, a survey revealed that nearly two thirds of people have bought in food from outside hospitals because the meals on offer were so unappetising”.

The association’s  Catering Mark offers patients a guarantee that what’s on the menu is free from controversial e-numbers including aspartame, tartrazine and MSG. Meals are freshly prepared and do not contain artificial trans fats or GM ingredients.  James was very keen that Scarborough Hospital aspire to the SA’s  Bronze Award – and we have to wait to see if Pat and her team achieve this.

Over 10,000 meals which have received Soil Association ‘Food for Life Catering Mark’ bronze award are already being served in hospitals every day. ”

The Soil Association lay down a challenge:

“We know there are many more hospitals serving freshly prepared, locally sourced and organic food. Could your hospital be the first to receive a silver or gold award?”

So get YOUR hospital involved.

“If you are concerned that changing food is too complicated, applying for the Catering Mark can help to make it simpler. We will advise you on the most effective changes to make to your menus and help you overcome any challenges”.

Switching to healthy, sustainable food doesn’t always cost more. One hospital saved £6 million a year by cooking with fresh, local ingredients; another sources yoghurt from a local supplier for two thirds of the price of the nationally approved supplier.

The SA believe that the best hospital food

  • is good for patients
  • good for NHS staff
  • good for British farmers and food businesses
  • good for Britain.

If you agree, why not get your hospital to apply for the Catering Mark and reassure patients that you care about food?

S.A. Award holders


* North Bristol NHS Trust
* Nottingham University Hospitals Trust

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Do you need vitamins and supplements in the winter?


Packed full of vitamins WikipediaWI



At this time of year, we all get bombarded with advice – “take this supplement to counter winter’s ills”;  “winter means you need extra vitamins”;  I am sure you have seen many more.

Every cancer patient gets massive amounts of advice from friends;  “you need Vitamin X – or Y – or Z” to keep you chill, keep you healthy, etc.  But, current thinking in research centres says you are unlikely to need extra vitamins

as long as you are getting plenty of veg. and fruit, and eat a sensible, varied diet.

If you don’t think you are getting enough – follow James Martin, the TV Chef‘s advice on his recent Hospital food programme, and eat warming soup.  The beauty of soups is you can just chuck in more and more veg – until you run out!

But some supplements can be beneficial when undergoing treatment as part of your medical regime.  Your doctor or nurse should give you advice as to what and when you may need these, but – say good-bye to those expensive pills that are heavily advertised – unless you are given medical advice to take a certain brand.

Where supplements are useful

However, in all things, there should be a sensible balance, and the Health Supplements Information Service (HSIS) says overweight and obese people risk ill health over low vitamin and mineral levels;  supplements may help bridge the nutrition gap.

Older people face ill-health because of a poor diet, particularly if they are undergoing treatment.  They can often feel too tired to cook a proper meal, and start on the downward path to poor nutrition. Vitamin and mineral supplements can help bridge the gap, but as my Pharmacist says, you MUST take advice, as many of those sold over the counter may not be suitable.

September’s Nutrition and Food Science Magazine will contain an article on this subject, under the title ‘The Role of Micronutrients in Health Ageing’.

A recent study by the HSIS says that “not only is excess weight linked with lower levels of essential nutrients, but …………….. diet or losing weight can result in further nutrition problems”.

So what can you do?

Unless your doctor prescribes extra vitamins, spend the money on fruit and veg. instead.

But if your doctor does advise taking a supplement, listen carefully.  Often the dosage in over-the-counter remedies won’t be strong enough, and you will need to be sure you taking products containing the correct amount of ingredients.

And beware.  Companies know buzz words such as ‘Vitamin C or E or D – or any combination of letters of the alphabet – grabs attention; but even if you take lycopene instead of tomatoes – the fruits are far better for you, and probably cheaper.  Unless you can’t stand tomatoes, in which case why not look for tinned, paste, pizza etc.  to disguise the taste?

If you don’t believe me, just Google around for a bit, and you will see research finding after research – all saying the same thing.

As with all things – taking sensible advice can save you money – and  give you guidelines of what and when you need to take extra vitamins and supplements.  But if your doctor doesn’t say you need these pills, put the money into fresh fruit and veg.

What to buy

Have a look for the little Union Flag sticker on British apples and pears.  If you buy from supermarkets, ensure they are stocking OUR apples, not some from overseas, with all the problems that causes with extra food miles.

If you are going for a country walk, look out for blackberries;  try and pick them from the top of the bushes, because foxes, dogs, etc. lift their legs against lower branches!

If you are cooking brussels, cabbages, etc. think about using the outer leaves for soups, if they are fresh.  Celery makes a lovely vegetable, particularly cooked in stock, and you can make a simple and very cheap vegetarian dish with cauliflower, cheese and milk – then make double the sauce and use this for a leek bake the next day

And if you have a Farmers’ Market near you, or can access Veg. in a Box deliveries, you have an inexpensive source of ready-made vitamins just asking to be eaten!


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