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Gloucestershire nursing boss backs new hospital food ratings in bid to drive up standards

By The Citizen  |  Posted: August 29, 2014

Hospital food will be rated and published under new watchdog guidelines

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Food ratings are to be handed out for each hospital trust in a bid to drive up standards.

Gloucestershire Royal Hospital has the only working kitchen in the county and helps prepare more than 1,200 fresh meals for staff and patients daily.

But many other hospitals in England and Wales, including Cheltenham General, have meals prepared off site and shipped in.

New rules for health trusts will see menus rated on the quality of the food served on a new section of NHS Choices.

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A report from an expert panel of nutritionists recommends five legally-binding food standards for the NHS that will be enforced by Government. But some critics have said new protocols have not gone far enough to improve the quality of food served up in hospitals.

Gloucestershire Hospitals nursing director, Maggie Arnold, said nutrition and hydration of patients must be a key area of focus.

“Poor nutrition and hydration leads to poor health, increased and prolonged hospital admissions, and increased costs to the NHS,” she said.

“The consequences of poor nutrition and hydration are well documented and include increased risk of infection, delayed wound healing, decreased muscle strength and depression.”

Catering Services at Gloucestershire hospitals provide an average of 2,700 patient meals every day, and 750 staff and visitor meals.

Patients choose their meals from individual menu cards the evening before. Every menu offers nutritional food suitable for a range of special and textured diets and portion sizes. Patients with social or cultural needs are offered a separate menu. As well as main ward menus, a wide range of a la carte options to cater for specialist diets is available. Healthy snack boxes are provided for patients who may have missed meal times.

New guidelines with mandatory requirements were selected from more than 50 food quality standards.

Hospitals have been told to screen patients for malnutrition and patients should have a food plan. Trusts must also now take steps to ensure patients get the help they need to eat and drink, including initiatives such as protected meal times. Canteens must promote healthy diets for staff and visitors. Rules also state healthy food provided must be sustainable for the food industry.

New ratings of hospital food for NHS Choices has been devised through patient-led inspections. They will be published in a bid to improve openness and drive up standards across the NHS.

Professor Edward Baker, deputy chief inspector of hospitals at watchdog the Care Quality Commission, said: “It’s really important for patients to have access to good quality food based on their own needs.

“During our inspections, we speak to patients and check records to ensure patients are receiving the right food for their individual needs. Our findings determine which hospitals need closer inspection of their food practices.”

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