You may be aware that Encentre have been monitoring food hygiene data from across the UK. We benchmark food authority services in order to identify trends and enable local authorities to prioritise resources. A lot of local authorities work in different ways so we concentrate on outcomes rather than enforcement outputs; this also gives us a much clearer idea of performance for planning purposes.
The data for the 2014-2015 administrative period provided some really interesting research results. We would like to highlight one of the success stories in the 2014-2015 administrative period. This particular story involves a local authority area in England. So, what happened?
Between July 2014 and March 2015:
The national food hygiene ranking for this area, based on the percentage of premises that are not broadly compliant, improved from 365 (out of 373 local authorities) to 258. Regionally they improved their ranking from 27 to 2.
The percentage of premises with a food hygiene rating of 2 or less reduced from 22% to 7%. Conversely, the percentage of premises rated 4 and 5 also increased significantly.
Over the same period the total number of premises in the borough was seen to increase from 954 to 1249. Primarily this was a consequence of the service reducing the number of unrated premises.
The average risk rating scores awarded in the main rating categories (hygiene, structure and confidence in management) reduced over the year. Whereas, at the start of the year, they were above the regional average by the end of the year they all fell below the regional average and nearer to the national average.
How was this transformation achieved?
It is said that the change resulted from a combination of the following:
1.Provision of additional resources; primarily in the form of additional EHOs (including an equivalent of an extra 2 full-time officers).
2.Taking a zero tolerance approach to premises that were not broadly compliant; by revisiting on multiple occassions, serving multiple notices and bringing interventions forward before their due date.
3.'Compelling' (persuading) operators to attend training and education sessions to improve management skills and procedural implementation.
4.Political pressure (or will) to improve from senior management that was translated into a clear strategy for improvement.
Is this improvement sustainable?
Obviously, staffing resources play a key role in successful food safety intervention planning and were integral to the improvement highlighted above. They are, however, not a silver bullet and, it should always be remembered, may be reduced or removed at any time. Once removed there is then the potential that standards will fall back.
The 'carpet bomb' approach to enforcement is difficult to maintain with finite resources. Providing a mixture of different approaches, being able to measure (and identify) priorities and being able to respond to fluctuations (and regulatory pressures) are all challenges that face food authorities.
In order to be able to meet those challenges a combination of approaches needs to be adopted. Food authorities might do well by adhering to the following equation:
intelligence + targetted intervention planning + business support + a preventative programme = long term success
Notice that intelligence comes first in that formula. In fact, intelligence (informative data) is the golden thread that should be woven throughout the service. Unfortunately, it is the one element that is most often overlooked.
If you would like to find out how Encentre can help you make better use of data contact us.