Catering assistant

Catering assistants, chefs, cooks and catering managers all play an essential role in NHSScotland. It is their duty to help prepare, cook and serve food to patients and staff. The food must meet patients’ medical and cultural needs, and it must encourage healthy living.

Catering assistants work within the main kitchen or are ward-based and work from a pantry. They help the team prepare food and keep a clean kitchen environment. They also deliver food to staff and patients throughout the hospital.

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To become a catering assistant, you need a good standard of education. There are no entry requirements, but useful subjects include:

  • English
  • Food and Health Technology
  • Maths

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS. It would be helpful to have some experience in the catering industry.


An apprenticeship is a good way to start your career in healthcare.

Modern Apprenticeships

If you are interested in working in a healthcare support role, there is the Modern Apprenticeship in Healthcare Support.

All Healthcare Support modern apprentices study the three mandatory units of communication, health and safety, and learning development. For catering assistant, you will then choose your remaining units from the non-clinical pathway options.

Other relevant Modern Apprenticeships include:

Find out more about apprenticeships at

The role

As a catering assistant, you’ll work as part of the catering team. You will work with the catering manager, supervisors and cooks or chefs to make sure that food and drink are nutritious. You’ll help the catering manager maintain a clean kitchen and promote healthy lifestyles and wellbeing.

What you’ll do

Your main tasks include:

  • preparing vegetables or cold foods
  • washing up, by hand or using a dishwasher
  • maintaining food hygiene standards
  • ensuring kitchen areas, work surfaces, floors and equipment are kept clean
  • serving meals and clearing tables in a canteen
  • monitoring temperature of food served within dining rooms or in wards

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • collaborating with people
  • communicating with people
  • listening skills
  • organisation skills
  • working with people skills
  • time management skills

Who you’ll work with

You could work with:

  • chefs and cook
  • catering managers
  • supervisors
  • nurses
  • patients

Working environment

You could work in:

  • dining rooms / retail outlets
  • kitchens
  • wards

Useful information

To work as a catering assistant in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

The Hospital Caterers Association celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2018. It was the first professional organisation within the NHS.

Learning and development

You will be encouraged to develop your career in NHSScotland and will be given training such as:

  • an introduction to the department and its procedures
  • intermediate food hygiene awarded by REHIS
  • elementary health and safety awarded by REHIS
  • catering services workbook provided by Health Facilities Scotland (HFS)
  • risk management

You may also have the chance to study for additional qualifications, including:

Gaining these new qualifications will help your career prosper. You’ll be able to apply to more senior roles, and progress to catering supervisor, assistant head cook or catering manager.