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Bosses at NHS Highland have defended their proposal to switch to hospital food supplier Apetito for meals for the residents of the Invernevis House care home in Fort William.
Lochaber Times reader Wullie Porter, whose mother is a resident at Invernevis House, said he is not happy with the proposed change – and he is not the only one.
Wiltshire-based Apetito already supplies around a fifth of all hot meals served in NHS hospitals in Scotland, England and Wales, which are often cooked months earlier and then frozen before being shipped up to 650 miles.
Mr Porter recently asked the health board about the quality of the ingredients in the frozen meals and was told Apetito only uses good quality ingredients.
He continued: ‘But the residents would not know how much beef, chicken or fish etc would be in a dish and how much would be made of stock or flavour enhancers. If more cutbacks were to come in or inflation caused the price to rise, what would happen to the quality of the ingredients used?
‘Would the portion size reduce? We would only have the word of the company that the standard would not drop.
‘We were informed that it would also help with the carbon foot print as at the moment, for instance, the lamb they get is from New Zealand.
‘When I asked about the butcher and the fishmonger that are local or getting goods from local suppliers, I was informed that they are not allowed to.
‘I believe the frozen meals will be coming from England and they say that they get there produce from British and Irish suppliers. The produce could have travelled many miles before it gets to the factory then transported the length of the country.
‘It only takes for the refrigeration on the vehicle to fail or be at the wrong temperature then there would be a major problem.’
Mr Porter says he believes Invernevis staff know residents needs, likes and dislikes best and can prepare fresh, cooked meals accordingly.
And he added: ‘They could work with an NHS nutritionist and dietician instead of working with Apetito staff. I belief a fresh cooked meal has more nutritional value than a frozen.’
Mr Porter claims a number of other residents’ relatives are also against the proposals, and added: ‘Most of the residents are of a generation that were born around the war years, lived through rations and now they cannot get a home-cooked meal in their final years.’
Asked to comment, am NHS Highland spokesperson told us: ‘There is currently a proposal pending the outcome of a six-month consultation about the possible implementation of Apetito meals into Invernevis House.
‘The meals, already used by other hospitals/homes run by NHS Highland, are ready-made but of a very high standard. A taster session was held for residents in August followed by sessions for residents’ family members. These were very well received.
‘The Apetito meals have had a positive impact on patients and are supported by NHS Highland’s community pharmacy teams and the health board’s nutrition and dietetics advisor for care homes.’