Catering during Covid-19

Iain Robertson Catering Operations Manager

Iain Robertson is our Catering Operations Manager, and he runs the catering services across all the Solent NHS Trust sites. He's only been part of the Solent team for six months but has worked within the NHS for more than 20 years. His role primarily oversees the inpatient meals service and the staff and patient canteens across our three hubs: St Mary’s Community Healthcare Campus in Portsmouth, and the Royal South Hants and Western Community Hospitals in Southampton.

As a response to Covid-19, the Trust has moved quickly to open up new inpatient areas. This has meant that Iain's already busy role has become even more important as he makes sure that patients being admitted in to these new spaces and the staff working in them, have access to a variety of catering options. This is a massive job for anyone, but for Iain it's even more strenuous given that he has had to move out of his home for the foreseeable future in order to protect his family from Coronavirus. This is because Iain’s six month old daughter is waiting to have heart surgery, and to protect her, Iain has moved out of his family home and in to the Southampton Novotel.

I first met Iain on the induction day for new healthcare staff at one of the reconfigured areas in Southampton; Iain and his team were trialling his first meal out of the new kitchen and we chatted over lunchtime about his latest project. Iain has spent the last few weeks setting up a food service for the new wards, which will support patients who can leave the acute hospitals but who aren’t quite ready to go home. He's had to build and equip a kitchen that is able to provide on-demand meals and food for more than 70 patients and the staff working in these new areas. In addition, he's only had 19 days to get this ready; liaising with the estates teams who are sorting the overall reconfiguration of the health centre.

catering during Covid-19

In this unit patients will be able to order a hot meal at a time that suits them, or they have the flexibility to just ask for some toast, a jelly, ice-cream, yogurt, a sandwich and so on. This is a fully patient-centered catering arrangement, designed to suit preference and need. On top of this, Iain’s team is still catering for the rest of the rehabilitation wards on site.

On Easter Monday Iain and his team held their first "practice run" in the new kitchen to coincide with the induction for our new team. They were expecting 60 people to turn up for the practice run, but ended up with nearly 90, with everyone commenting on how tasty the food was and what an amazing job the catering team did.

Iain is one of a large number of NHS staff that are providing essential services and are making huge personal sacrifices. We are lucky to have him in the Trust; not only is he brilliant company but he has a happy team, an endless smile on his face, and hasn’t compromised one bit on what the patients will need and want. One of the many extraordinary people I’ve met.

About the author

I am the Associate Director for Research & Improvement, and lead the Academy, its core team and the clinical academic programme for Solent NHS Trust. I also work nationally and across Wessex on a number of areas, such as quality improvement, research strategy, patient and community partnership working and workforce development.