After a quarter of a century, patients at Bridlington Hospital will no longer have their meals cooked on site from next February, putting 13 catering jobs at risk.
Proposals from the York NHS Foundation Trust, who run Bridlington Hospital, after they merged with the Scarborough NHS Trust last year, would see meals produced at York instead of at the kitchens in Bridlington.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said the news that the current eleven catering assistants will be reduced to three and only one of the six chefs will be required was “devastating news for our members and their families”.
Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “This is devastating news for our members and their families who have given a first class service to Bridlington hospital for the past 25 years.
“We would have liked more of a commitment from York Foundation Trust to this catering service – the trust seems intent on axing more services and jobs at Bridlington.
“Management has said that it will try to redeploy staff, but redundancies are on the cards which Unite will oppose very strongly.”
A consultation period for potential job losses ends on 29 October.
Patient meals, which total 120 a day, will be provided using the cook/chill method with meals being cooked at York hospital and then transported to Bridlington to be reheated and served to patients.
The dining room - for the staff, public and the 110 patients using the hospital at any one time - will only open for two hours per day during the week and will be closed all weekend under these plans.
The move will require a significant investment at the York site, but will result in a further downgrading of services at Bridlington hospital say the union.
A spokesperson for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust is wholly committed to investing in Bridlington Hospital. It plays a key role in the Trust’s development plans, and is ideally placed to provide services that complement those on our main hospital sites in York and Scarborough.
Decisions are already being made about the investments we will make and the services we will provide there.
“In today’s NHS, resources are extremely limited and we have an obligation to make best use of these in order to make the developments we want to make at sites such as Bridlington.
“Due to the investment needed to bring the kitchens at Bridlington up to standard, and considering the low numbers catered for on the site, the decision has been taken to move to cook-chill at the Bridlington site. This is more efficient as it reduces production costs and waste, and will allow us to prioritise our capital investment in the support of clinical services.
“We are an organisation that prides itself in supporting its staff, growing the workforce wherever we can in the interests of our patients, and clearly redundancy is not something that is taken lightly. However we have been under significant pressure to make savings for a number of years, and all services are already facing this level of scrutiny. We are now in a position where we are making difficult choices, and whilst we hope that staff may be redeployed into other roles, some redundancies may be unavoidable. Those staff affected have been notified of the changes and will be supported throughout the consultation period.
“The quality of our food is of utmost importance to us. It a fundamental part of a patient’s rehabilitation and it is vital that their nutritional needs are met.
By preparing and serving food in this manner we can offer a more efficient service whilst still providing nutritious, hot and tasty food.”
Only last year, a healthy new menu created by celebrity chef James Martin was rolled out at Bridlington Hospital.
Scarborough Hospital Catering Manager, Pat Bell, who last year took over the running of catering at Bridlington Hospital, explained in December 2012 that after the rollout of fresh soups earlier in the year, a full menu including popular dishes such as sticky toffee pudding and slow cooked pork had been launched.
James Martin had ushered in the changes after working with Scarborough Hospital on Operation Hospital Food, a week-long series for BBC1, which aired in 2011 and aimed to bring healthy, but budget conscious food to hospital patients, staff and visitors.
At the time, Ken Brown, Head Chef at Bridlington Hospital, said he hoped more people would visit the hospital restaurant and that the new menu would be a popular draw.