Operation Hospital Food: Do hospitals need a good shake up..?

Hospital Food | Patients Nutrition | Food RegulationsLike aeroplane food, hospital food has a somewhat awful reputation. The subject is increasingly highlighted by the Media, who like to jump on the bandwagon of painting it as both disgusting and inedible.

However the statistics do speak for themselves; a survey for the Soil Association in the UK found that over a third of people thought that hospital food was ‘unacceptable’ and more than half said they would not be happy offering it to a child.

Even more importantly is research from Age UK in 2010, showing that around 180, 000 patients were leaving hospital malnourished each year. The National ‘Hungry to be Heard’ campaign suggests that these numbers are still increasing.

The Soil Association recently published a report ‘First Aid for Hospital Food’ which, encouragingly, highlights how, despite a number of barriers, hospitals CAN provide good, nutritious food on a tight budget.

On Monday 10th December SR Nutrition was invited to attend an event hosted by Chef James Martin in preparation for the next series of his documentary ‘Operation Hospital Food’ on BBC One.

Charlotte attended as a representative and was really pleased to see a campaign in place with a champion who really was passionate about making a difference to the standard of hospital food.

The campaign is now in its second BBC series and involves James Martin and a number of award winning chefs who have set out to improve the standard of food served in hospitals across the UK.

Series One of ‘Operation Hospital Food’ saw James making huge improvements to the food served in the hospitals by simplifying and improving menus, reducing wastage, getting fresh and local produce on the menus and generating income for the hospitals from onsite restaurants. Series Two is set to spread this work throughout a number of other hospitals in England and Wales.

During the event a range of foods (mainly soups) were served, many of which have now been introduced to the menus of the hospitals this campaign has been supporting. The soups were delicious – my favourite being the parsnip and rosemary soup. However as someone who does not add salt to foods, I could quite easily taste the salt in the recipes. Nevertheless, James assured me that all recipes had been checked and approved by local hospital dietitians to ensure that they were meeting the correct standards for all patients.

This campaign, along with the Soil Association’s report, was able to demonstrate that a number of hospitals have made beneficial changes to the food served and all without increasing their budget, which is inevitably tight for most (around £2.00-£3.00 per day per person). This suggests that with the right approach, attitude and support all hospitals could be serving nutritious and, crucially, edible foods to all patients.

Personally I believe that hospitals should be leading the way in terms of demonstrating what ‘Healthy Eating’ really is. If a hospital is where people go to ‘get better’, then good food really needs to be an important part of the hospital environment. Ensuring patients receive adequate nutrients needed for health and repair is vital for recovery, but even more critical is demonstrating that which patients should be eating to maintain good health. This is in the hope that, once patients return home they may have the tools and understanding to ‘eat well’ for themselves and reduce the need to return to hospital.

Campaigns such as Jamie Oliver’s School Meals Initiative and now ‘Operation Hospital Food’ with chef James Martin are often pivotal in helping to highlight a need for change.  So here’s to Operation Hospital Food and here’s hoping it makes a difference.

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