LETTER: Accountability of public purse
Possibly the biggest failure in the Public Sector is the lack of true accountability as to how the public purse is used. It is every taxpayer's right to question decisions and the reasons that underpin them, when public health and its funding are central parameters to the question.
Before awarding the contract for catering and replacing the Friends facilities with private providers, the Trust, like any accountable business would have done their due diligence on the various tenders that were invited and submitted.
The financial strategy behind the decision will, it is reported, generate more money. Perhaps the Trust will publish the income from Compass and Costa and how it has benefitted patients. This would go some way to alleviating the distress caused to the volunteers and their supporters, as the financial basis of the business case could be validated, even if, as reported, the decision was widely perceived as insensitive. One fundamental difference is that the monies received will now presumably be outside the control of the Friends. Another strand to the argument for change was the documented provision of ‘more healthy options’. Patient’s nutrition (together with that of the staff), especially in the elderly cannot be over emphasised.
In the 1980s, the school meals service was put out to private tender under the Thatcher government. In that process current providers, I believe, were not allowed to tender. By the turn of the millennium, it was reported the health of school children was at its lowest level since the Second World War. The government had failed in their tendering process to impose any nutritional standards on the private providers yet alone how these would have been monitored. The uncontrolled substitution of the nutritional content by the taste of fat and sugar, brought the dawn of the ‘turkey twizzler’......a delight for children and increased profits for the private providers.
It would be in the public interest to know, in light of this well known and publicised ‘historic failure’, what nutritional standards have been set for Compass and Costa (against current standards) and how these standards will be monitored.
It is to be hoped the reported financially robust business plan also brings the promised ‘more healthy options’ and does not compromise nutritional standards for patients and staff. If all these criteria are met, it would be hard to criticise the decision based on income and nutrition, which appear to have been the documented prime movers.