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Mitie total service package at St George's Hospital London19th of September 2014
St George’s Hospital in South London is one of the UK’s largest teaching hospitals with over 1,000 beds. It treats over 800,000 patients a year and employs more than 8,000 staff on a 92,000 square metre site.
Supplying the catering and cleaning services is one of the UK’s leading facilities service providers, Mitie. ECJ editor Michelle Marshall visited the site to find out how the operation works.
Founded in 1733 and located in South West London, St George’s Hospital is one of the largest teaching hospitals in the UK. With over 1,000 beds and 8,000 staff, it treats in excess of 800,000 patients per year. One of the UK’s largest outsourcing specialists, Mitie, has the contract to supply catering and cleaning services over a seven-year term. The contract started in 2009 and will finish in 2016.
The services provided by Mitie at St George’s are: patient catering including hostess service and ward issues; retail catering and coffee shop services; cleaning service, including deep cleans and rapid response; helpdesk; and provision of stock for client domestic/clinical disposables. When the contract started an investment of 1.88 million euros was made in new catering facilities, with a 378,000 euros contribution from Mitie.
The company provides all patient catering at the site and procures all foods – the dedicated patient catering hostesses serve over 3,000 meals and more than 5,000 drinks every day.
Mitie also operates two in-house branded Ingredients restaurants and three coffee shops providing visitor and hospitality catering.
Responsible for ensuring all aspects of the contract run smoothly every day is operations director Moira Hedley, who heads up a team of 700 Mitie staff on the site. There are 42 wards in the hospital and cleaners are available round-the-clock. In fact many of the services provided by Mitie on this site are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Hedley explains why the contract works so well for Mitie and for St George’s. “We are fortunate in that we have a very strong relationship with our client, it’s a true partnership. Of course there have been challenges during the time we have been at the site but we have always worked through problems together.”
Key to the contract’s success also lies in the fact Mitie is keen to bring innovation wherever it can, in both the cleaning and catering aspects. For example the company introduced microfibre mopping for more effective infection control, and in catering one of its initiatives has been the introduction of sugar-free drinks. In the Ingredients restaurant, which is visited by up to 400 people every day, there has been a healthy eating initiative run by retail catering manager Megan Hamade.
Responsible for buying all products, whether for cleaning or catering, is procurement manager Doug Gilchrist. Mitie has a preferred supplier list and the stipulations around this are particularly rigorous when it comes to food, as the company has to prove its provenance.
As one of the UK’s largest FM companies Mitie enjoys significant buying power with major distributors of food and cleaning supplies because of the sheer volumes involved – an important benefit for the cost-conscious National Health Service (NHS).
John Greenhalgh, patient catering manager, explains that St George’s operates a cook-and-freeze system of serving food – whereby all meals are prepared off-site, frozen and reheated on the wards. “This is the best system because we have ultimate control,” he says. “It is also nutritionally preferable, reduces waste and offers the best flexibility when we have different ward demands, etc. Not only that, cooking frozen food is safer, more cost effective and easier for us to manage.”
Greenhalgh goes on to explain how the massive catering operation in such a large hospital works in practice. “Food is delivered to a central point, temperature checked and put into the freezer immediately. We operate using a linear workflow. To minimise handling, every ward puts in a specific order, which makes it easy and manageable for staff. Each meal is then picked and packed according to what the wards require.”
Every stage of the operation is designed to be as sustainable and environmentally responsible as possible, according to the NHS and Mitie’s standards.
Suppliers, for example, have sophisticated tracking systems fitted to vehicles carrying goods in order to minimise food miles. Mitie also requires environmental statistics from its suppliers on a regular basis, in order to maintain complete control of the entire process.
Hygiene at all stages of food preparation is of course vital, and as well as ensuring all meals are temperature controlled and HACCP compliant when they arrive, Mitie’s managers regularly visit the sites where food is prepared in order to ensure the same high hygiene standards are met.
When food arrives on the wards it’s the responsibility of the Mitie hostesses to prepare and distribute it; the hostesses have been trained in the key aspects of nutritional awareness while also having customer service skills. “This means they can bring problems and concerns regarding individual patients’ nutrition to the attention of the nursing staff,” explains John Greenhalgh.
“We also have a very supportive group of matrons and dietitians so together we are always looking at new ways of improving how we work – because we all understand the vital link between clinical care and nutrition.”
The cleaning team, which works round the clock at the hospital, is headed up by hotel, services manager Miguel Avelino. There are 320 cleaners in total, working a series of different shifts. Training is carried out through the accredited British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) training centre on the site. Catering staff have a Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) Level 1 or Level 2 Food Safety Certificate. Glenn Scott, training and compliance manager, is responsible for ensuring all operatives have the skills and education necessary to maintain standards.
Moira Hedley’s main client contact at the site is Jenni Doman, general manager, estates and facilities for St George’s NHS Hospital Trust.
Investment in teams
She explains: “Together with Mitie we invested heavily in the teams and equipment as part of the cleaning and catering contract – aspects that really differentiate the services on offer.
“Mitie also introduced very effective training solutions, and that assists us in meeting standards – we now have governance and competence in training which we did not have before.”
Doman adds that the introduction of more supervisors on each ward has also been instrumental in improving standards. “And I am now very confident of our monitoring systems and reporting mechanisms,” she says.
“There is also tremendous camaraderie between the different teams on the wards, with effective communication and everyone working together to maintain high standards, with Mitie
staff living and working to the Trust’s as well as Mitie’s own value standards. Indeed Mitie managers have been included in the Trust Value awards for providing outstanding service over the past two years.”
It’s clear that Doman is also particularly impressed with the way in which Mitie innovates the services it provides rather than merely carrying out tasks as laid down in the specification. “And data is continually produced which is actually being used to make improvements, rather than being data for data’s sake.”
The efforts of both the hospital and Mitie teams are paying off in terms of results too. Patients are invited to rate various aspects of the service through the hospital website and cleanliness earns four out of five stars, with staff co-operation also receiving four stars. Mitie have also achieved 5 point rating from Wandsworth Council’s Environmental Health department, which is the highest score that can be awarded to a catering premise by the local Environmental Health Officers.