A leading London hospital has cut back on its catering contract and asked nursing staff to pick up the slack, Nursing Times has learnt.
Under a new system being trialled across eight wards at Imperial College Healthcare Trust, nurses and healthcare assistants are doing the jobs previously carried out by contract staff.
It follows a cut in the trust’s contract with catering and facilities supplier ISS, and the replacement of food cooked on site with food cooked off site.
Rather than food being delivered to patients by “hostesses” employed by ISS, the food is being delivered to the ward by an ISS employee and then distributed to patients by nursing staff.
However, Nursing Times understands no extra nursing staff have been employed on the wards to carry out the additional duties or cover for staff that are doing them.
The union Unison branded the move another attempt to save money, potentially at the expense of patient care.
Michael Walker, Unison’s London nursing officer, said: “We are aware that across London, attempts are being made to force nurses to carry out more and more non nursing duties.
“We fear that distractions from core nursing duties could result in serious implications for patient care.”
A trust spokesman said: “In order to better meet the needs of our patients, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is exploring different types of food, and different ways of delivering them on the wards.
“We have trialled a variety of different options and will review the results of these trials with patients and staff.”
Whereas in the past nurses have been responsible for feeding patients, most trusts have now introduced hostesses to take over the role, as it is time consuming and easily disrupted by clinical incidents on the ward. Many trusts also make use of volunteers to help feed patients.
Nursing Times understands the use of nurses to carry out hostess roles is unlikely to be continued at Imperial.