Stating the obvious re hospital food

My local hospital is so fed up with complaints over food, it has raised a massive stories-high banner in its Atrium, which proudly says its food received an EXCELLENT in the PEAT Awards. All costing £600.

Doesn’t mention that PEAT awards are researched by hospital staff – who sometimes forget to take negative comments into account.

What Hospitals should be doing is making sure stuff it feeds us is fit for purpose.

Good things are happening

University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, is about to surprise us.

NHS patients in Wales will receive meals based on mandatory nutritional standards, with limits on the amount of saturated fat and salt but plenty of protein, fruit and vegetables.

The guidelines say patients must also receive seven to eight drinks per day ; water jugs must be changed three times a day and snacks must be available 24 hours a day.

All hospitals in Wales must have fully implemented the standards by April 2013. (Why not now ?)

Campaigners are calling on the UK Government to follow Wales’ lead and introduce nutrition standards for all hospital meals.

Campaign

If you visit hospital frequently, and can’t stand the food, what have you done about this ?

The Good Food for Our Money campaign is now calling on Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to follow Wales’ lead and implement a system in England. The campaign is a coalition of groups including the National Heart Forum, Patient Concern and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Alex Jackson, co-ordinator of the Good Food for Our Money campaign, said : “Introducing legally binding standards for hospital food in England is the simplest and most effective way to improve patients’ meals.

So what can you do ?

  • Don’t moan to the nurses. They have no say in the matter.
  • Neither is it any good complaining to the hospital. Most get their food from outside caterers, sometimes over a hundred miles away.

What you can do is :

  1. Ask your MP to look in to this.
  2. Contact charities mentioned and ask if they can help you/give you advice
  3. Organise friends on a rota to supply your food.
  4. Complain to the Catering Facilitator (or whatever Jobsworth title the hospital uses) and ask them why they aren’t providing you with nutritious meals. It will probably be the first time they have ever made contact with a patient, and sparks might fly !

Patients’ Association

Or you could phone the Patients’ Association and ask them what can you do ? Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said : “Patients in hospital need every support to get better and back to their families as soon as possible. A healthy and nutritional meal is one of the key steps on the road to recovery. Patients must be given nutritionally balanced and healthy meals as standard when in hospital.

“Wales is leading the way when it comes to free prescription charges and it is excellent they are guaranteeing healthy meals in their hospitals.

“Andrew Lansley needs to sit up and take notice and make these initiatives apply in England.”

What Wales is doing

The all-Wales catering and nutrition standards for hospitals outline exactly what patients should be offered daily, including the calorie content of each main meal and snack.

They require that patients are given a choice from a “varied menu”, a missed meal services is available and that main meals should be available every four to six hours throughout the day.

And the standards include the minimum provisions – such as tea, coffee, biscuits, jam and milk – that should be available on every ward.

In their introduction to the guidelines, chief medical officer for Wales Dr Tony Jewell and Professor Jean White, chief nursing officer, said : “Hospital food is an essential part of inpatient care. Good food can encourage patients to eat well, giving them the nutrients they need to recover from surgery or illness.

“The aim is to elevate the provision of food to the same importance as medication ; raise awareness of nutrition in relation to patient safety ; and to enable catering to be recognised as a clinical support service.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said : “Significant work has been done in Wales to improve hospital food and support for patients to eat their food.

“On admission to hospital, the nutritional needs of all patients are assessed and standards are in place to ensure that they receive high quality food consistently in hospitals across Wales.

“This is backed by a nutrition awareness campaign for staff aimed at raising the importance of food and hydration to the same level as that given to medication.

“These are simple things that make a big difference to patients and we hope others will follow the example of the NHS in Wales on this work.”

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