Unison, Unite and RCN stewards in Oxfordshire Health NHS Trust have launched a pertition calling for the trust to reconsider the decision to introduce "cook chill" catering system in Oxfordshire's community hospitals.

Patient groups have already raised concern about the impact the reduction in quality in cook chill food will have on patient's nutritional intake.  There is already evidence that patients in areas that have already have cook chill vote with their feet and order in food in preference to the hospital food provided if they can afford it. The use of take away food puts patients at risk of poor nutrition and loss of control over food safety.  The problem is of such significance that the trust has had to bring in a policy whereby nursing staff have the additional work of policing food outlets patients order in from and performing safety checks on the food when it is delivered. 

Poorly nuitritioned patients can take longer to recover potentially raising costs of hospital stays.  Impoverishing staff through unemployment is likely to impact negatively on the well being of staff, as is the increased use of low paid staff in cook chill companies, with associated increased demands on the NHS.  The requirement for nurses to monitor take-away food distracts them from other aspects of care. 

All this raises the spectre of the "cook chill" project being a false economy, driven by the government demand for cuts rather than any joined up thinking about the real costs of healthcare of the population the trust is supposed to be serving.

The petition can be signed online here.  A printed version can be downloaded here.