20 January 2005 | Cara Whitehouse
Hospitals in North Wales will use only locally sourced beef under a £120,000-a-year deal unveiled last week.
The scheme, revealed by Carwyn Jones, minister for the environment, planning and countryside at the Welsh assembly, will apply to hospitals in the North West Wales, North East Wales and Conwy and Denbighshire NHS Trusts.
It reflects a growing trend among hospitals and schools to source produce locally.
Patients and visitors will tuck into 40,000 kilogrammes of Welsh beef a year under the contract negotiated by Welsh Health Supplies (WHS), the central contracting and materials management service for the NHS.
June Scott, contracts manager at WHS and lead negotiator on the deal, told SM: "The contract will greatly benefit the local economy and provide patients with quality local products. We have worked with suppliers and through the supply chain to make sure our aims are aligned and the costs can be kept down."
She added that it demonstrated the impact procurement could have on the assembly's agenda for sustainable development.
The Welsh deal follows a trial across four London hospitals to source local and, where possible, organic food.
The two-year project, which began last January, is on course to boost supplies of local and organic produce to 10 per cent of the hospitals' provisions, according to Emma Hockridge, hospital food project co-ordinator.
Darlington Memorial Hospital is also testing local organic milk. If the trial is successful, the hospital could award a three-year contract in April, said Dave Buxton, consortium contracts manager.
He added that many hospitals were interested in Darlington's trial, which allows patients to harness nutritional benefits in organic milk that could boost health and aid recovery.
The Soil Association, which campaigns for organic food and farming, said the trend for organic and local produce in schools and hospitals is "in its infancy, but is taking off".