Healthy catering within hospitals

hospitals bed

There are many different methods of providing catering services within the hospitals. Some hospitals cook food in traditional kitchens and send it to the wards to be served to patients or staff and visitor feeding areas. Some buy in chilled or frozen foods that are regenerated (reheated) in mobile trolleys and some have ward kitchen in which a certain amount of preparation and finishing is undertaken adjacent to the wards themselves.
Some new patented technologies are now appearing whereby chilled  food freshly prepared outside the hospital grounds is generated by pressurized cooking in the ward kitchens; this clearly saves valuable kitchen space that can be turned over to provide more hospital beds for needy patients.
One such modern method is called steamplicity, and has served to reduce costs considerably while increasing the choice, quality, presentation and nutritional elements of the food.
The better Hospital Food Programme attempts to improve standards for patients in the following ways;
  • Providing a 24-hours hospital catering service. This covers breakfast, drinks and snacks, light lunchtime meals and an improved two-course evening dinner.
  • A national franchise for hospital catering aims to ensure hospital food is provided by organisations with a national reputation for high quality and customer satisfaction.
  • Hospital are to have ward housekeepers 'to ensure that the quality, presentation and portion size of meals meets patients' needs; that patients, particularly the elderly, are able to eat the meals on offer; and that the service patients receive is genuinely available around the clock'.
  • Dietitians advise and check on nutritional values in hospital food. Patients' views should be measured as part of the Performance Assessment Framework, and the quality of food will be subject to inspections.

Patients who are able, are encouraged to eat at normal meal times and the normal mealtime service caters for the needs of the majority of patients. The hospital plan recognises the need to provide meals outside normal periods for patients who cannot eat at the usual mealtime or are prevented from eating at the breakfast, lunch and/or dinner services.
The 24-hour catering service comprises three elements:
  • the Ward Kitchen Service
  • the Snack Box
  • the Light Bite.

These are all available on request (subject to certain clinical considerations). They represent the minimum level of service required.
The Ward Kitchen Service: a ward-based Kitchen service from which patients can obtain light refreshment such as tea/coffee/cold drinks, toast/preserves, biscuits and fruit, at any time of the day or night.

The Snack Box: this offers a number of items presented in a box, making up a replacement meal for patients who have missed a meal, or where patients would prefer a lighter alternatives to the meals on offer throughout the Mealtime Service. There should be at least three alternatives boxes on offer:
  • a children's box
  • a snack box
  • a sandwich snack box.
The Light Bite: some patients may want a more substantial hot alternatives and the Light Bite should be offered in these circumstances. These meals are designed to be quick and easy to prepare and serve to patients at ward level, and are likely to be of the pre-prepared microwaveable type. This means patients should be able to get nutritious, tasty hot food at any time of the day or night.

In many hospitals a qualified dieticians is responsible for:
  • collaborating with the catering manager on the planning of meals
  • drawing up and supervising special diets
  • instructing diet cooks on the preparation of special dishes
  • advising the catering manager and assisting in the training of cooks with regard to nutritional aspects
  • advising patients.

In some hospitals the food for special diets will be prepared in a diet bay by diet cooks.
Information about the type of meal or diet to be given to each patient is supplied daily to the kitchen. This information will give the number of full, light, fluid and special diets, and with each special diet will be given the name of the patient and the type of diet required.
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