Catering Staff

Catering Assistants, Chefs, Cooks and Catering Managers play an essential role in NHSScotland, helping to prepare, cook and serve food to patients and staff.

Catering Assistants and Cooks are all part of the Catering team. The food prepared and served by Catering staff in hospitals and other healthcare settings is important for patient recovery and also promotes healthy lifestyles and wellbeing.

Chefs and Cooks

In larger hospital kitchens, a Chef or Head Cook will oversee and supervise the rest of the team.

Working as a Chef or Cook, you would usually have little or no contact with patients.

Your duties are likely to include:

  • planning meals and menus, taking dietary requirements into account
  • preparing and cooking food, following NHSScotland standards and ensuring a high standard of quality is maintained
  • ensuring that meals are served promptly
  • stock control and reducing food waste
  • ensuring food is stored correctly and hygienically
  • monitoring food quality
  • following the required hygiene, health and safety procedures
  • check and monitor the performance of kitchen equipment and report the need for maintenance and repair as required

Catering Assistant

Depending on where you are based, you may have some contact with patients.

Catering Assistants may be involved in:

  • preparing vegetables or cold foods
  • washing up, by hand or using a dishwasher
  • maintaining food hygiene standards and ensuring kitchen areas, such as work surfaces, equipment, floors and stores are kept clean
  • serving meals and clearing tables in a canteen
  • load meals onto trolleys to go to the wards and other parts of the hospital
  • monitor temperatures of food served in the wards
  • ensure equipment is safe and clean before use

Catering Managers

Working as a Catering Manager, you would supervise Catering staff to make sure meals are prepared and served correctly. You would also ensure services meet health and safety and food hygiene standards.

Catering Managers often work with Dieticians and Dietetic Assistants to plan meals for patients with special requirements. They also work closely with Chefs and Cooks to plan menus, ensuring ingredients and supplies are available and used carefully to minimise waste and meet financial targets. They use IT systems to order supplies and keep financial and administrative records.

Food Safety Legislation

It is vital for everyone in the Catering Services team to understand food safety legislation. You will need to know how to prepare, store and serve food in ways that reduce the risk of infection while helping patients recover and return to health. Find out more about the standards for food, fluid and nutritional care on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.

Useful skills include:

  • good food preparation and cooking skills
  • team working skills
  • organisational skills
  • awareness of food hygiene and food safety
  • good customer service skills

Useful abilities include:

  • willing to work in hot, noisy conditions
  • physically fit for standing, moving and lifting
  • flexibility

Catering Assistants are likely to need a good standard of English and Maths as well as an awareness of food hygiene practices and good standards of personal hygiene. It is also useful to have some experience in catering or customer service either from paid employment or voluntary work.

The specific entry requirements will depend on the role. The qualifications asked for may also vary depending on the recruiting NHSScotland Board. You are advised to contact each individual board to find out its specific entry requirements.

When you join NHSScotland as a Chef or Cook, you will work towards gaining the following catering qualifications:

To apply for a job as a Catering Manager, you will need an undergraduate degree or an HND in subjects like Hospitality Management or Hotel and Catering Management. Entry requirements for these courses vary depending on the university, college or provider. Specific entry requirements, including other accepted qualifications, are provided on each university website. To apply for an undergraduate programme you must use the UCAS application process.

Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme

For catering services roles, you may also need to be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme managed by Disclosure Scotland.

Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level.

Modern Apprenticeships in Hospitality at SCQF Level 5 or Hospitality (Professional Cookery) at SCQF Level 6 are frameworks for people interested in working in catering or hospitality services. Find out more about these Modern Apprenticeships on the Skills Development Scotland (SDS) website:

Healthcare Support (Non-clinical) at SCQF Level 6 and SCQF Level 7 is another framework for people interested in working in a healthcare setting in a non-clinical support role. For more information about this Modern Apprenticeship framework, look at:

You will be encouraged to develop your career in NHSScotland and you will be given the training you need for the job including:

During your career, you may have the opportunity to study for additional qualifications, such as:

Look on the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) website to find the full range of qualifications on offer for staff working in facilities services.

Career pathways

Gaining new qualifications will help your career prospects, leading to more senior roles with a greater level of responsibility.

With further experience and qualifications, you could progress to a role as a Catering Supervisor or Team Leader, Assistant Head Cook or Catering Manager. The head of the team is the Head of Estates and manages a whole team of staff.

Learn more about the NHSScotland Estates and Facilities career pathways.

Catering staff are able to join the following organisations:

Hospital Caterer's Association (HCA)

The HCA sets and maintaining standards for hospitals and healthcare services in the UK. It does this by developing education and training programmes for those employed in healthcare catering services. Find out more on the HCA website.

Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS)

REHIS is an awarding body for qualifications in Food Safety, Food and Health and Occupational Health and Safety. Find out more on the REHIS website.

British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM)

The BIFM is the professional body, which represents facilities management organisations and practitioners in the UK. Find out more on the BIFM website.

Institute of Hospitality

The Institute of Hospitality was formerly known as the Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management Association (HCIMA). It is the professional body for managers and aspiring managers who work and study in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries. Find out more on the Institute of Hospitality website.