Portsmouth City Council apologises 'unreservedly' for meals on wheels shambles after Duke of Buckingham pub took over service

THE director of adult social care at Portsmouth City Council has apologised ‘unreservedly’ for the short-lived meals on wheels contract introduced in April which left people without hot meals.

By Josh Wright
Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 4:37 pm
Portsmouth City Council has apologised to customers of its meals on wheels service Picture posed by models
Portsmouth City Council has apologised to customers of its meals on wheels service Picture posed by models

A ‘learning review’ requested by the new cabinet member for the department, councillor Matthew Winnington, says the idea of using local companies was 'the right one' but that improvements had been made as the new service is rolled out.

Read More

Read More
'Light at the end of the tunnel' to fix Britain's decaying dental industry says ...

‘There were clearly lessons in this process and as the director of adult social care I apologise unreservedly to our residents that our service to them was not to the standard that it should have been,’ Andy Biddle said. ‘I also apologise unreservedly for the disruption and concern our residents experienced.

Owner Andrew Harvey and manager, Fiona Russell at Duke of Buckingham, Old Portsmouth, who say they felt stitched up by the council's behaviour over the meals on wheels contract Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘I hope this paper demonstrates the lessons learned and reinforces the service that we want to enable for our Portsmouth residents with care and support needs.’

The contract with the Duke of Buckingham began in April and was brought in to replace the longstanding meal deliveries arrangement provided through Apetito. This was ended after the firm requested a per meal price increase from £5.50 to £8.

Alongside the Duke of Buckingham, two other unnamed Portsmouth-based companies had also been due to take over, however one requested more time to prepare while the other ‘became uncontactable very late on in the process’ according to the review.

It was agreed the pub would take over deliveries to all 160 recipients in the city ‘short term’.

But it was faced with a raft of issues; including 'a number of gaps' in information provided by Apetito, such as access details and delivery days; and a shortage of delivery drivers.

This led to ‘a significant number’ of complaints being made with meals either delivered late or not at all and meals being declined when payment had yet to be received.

At the same time, council officers became aware of the findings of a March food hygiene inspection which uncovered issues with food storage and saw it given a two-star rating.

The review says this prompted the council to 'review its options', leading to the ‘mutually agreed’ end of the contract.

But pub owner Andrew Harvey described the situation as ‘a real stitch-up’ and said it had put his reputation and that of the business at stake.

As an interim replacement, the meals on wheels service was taken over by Somerstown Hub for people not already receiving other care at home.

A new contract has now been agreed with another local company and is gradually being rolled-out across the city. Coverage of half the city began this month with two more post code areas being added in July before the final one in August.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the review was ‘very honest’ and would lead to a better service now being provided.

‘It was a very difficult situation with previous contractor leaving and there were clearly mistakes made,' he said. 'But we have learned from those and I'm hopeful the new local provider will bring the service we were looking for originally.’