I recently had the pleasure of meeting some folk involved in the inner workings of the Western General Hospital – those involved in catering, domestic services and portering. The more I look into life at the Western, the more I understand just how important all the different disciplines are in making sure that the patients have the best possible experience when spending a little bit of time here. I hear specific jobs and tasks described with the same care and concern for the patient whether it is a from the perspective of a domestics supervisor or a consultant surgeon.

I met with Gordon Fender, Area Facilities Manager, to start to find out a bit more about what I now know is called ‘soft facilities’ or to you and me;  catering, domestic and portering services. Gordon was originally involved in the hospitality trade before making a switch into healthcare. He has a welcoming, easy way about him and told me about the 2,000 meals that are being prepared for patients every day, the 400 domestic staff who work here round the clock and the 80 or so catering staff who keep all the meals coming.

Gordon introduced me Carol who works as a supervisor on the catering team. She gave me a real insight in the vast scale of operation that the catering staff is involved in and the careful attention given to making sure that food is freshly prepared and well presented. Apparently it takes two staff a good few hours to wrap 680 sets of cutlery in their napkins 3 times per day. A great illustration to the thought and attention that goes into patient care. Carol, who lives locally, has seen many changes over the years. Some are welcome – she is no longer required to fill up a vast quantity of salt and pepper pots, now replaced with sachets; and some which she finds more difficult to embrace – such as the increasingly disposable nature of some of the crockery now offered. It just doesn’t keep food warm in the same way and also does not do much for the environment. However as Gordon told us all food waste now does get recycled made partly into methane and partly into soil improver.

Apparently Janette and Joyce had popped their heads around the door to announce their arrival. So involved in conversation had I been that they hadn’t been spotted and were patiently waiting outside Gordon’s office. Both are supervisors in the Domestics team which according to both comes with an increasing amount of paperwork. They described the pride they take in making sure that the areas they work in are well looked after and the changing nature of their work over the years – not only has the hospital grown considerably in size, responsibilities have also shifted. Once they would have been responsible for patients teas and coffees, now this is part of the care assistants duties. They seemed to be very accepting of the changes on the whole recognising that as advances are made things do need to change. Joyce and Janette also live locally and confirmed what Carol had already told me. Living locally means you can walk to work, which is great when your work starts at 6am. It can also be a real help in managing family life;  working on an evening shift leaves the daytime free to look after your children. Through my conversation I came to realise that the Western is a major employer in the area.

I had no time left to see ‘the belt’ in action  – this is where the food for patients is dished up and I am determined to catch up with that and some of the other staff on my next visit!

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