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29
Aug

HCA backs call for mandatory national standards in England


The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) has responded to claims by Sustain, under the banner of the Better Hospital Food Campaign, that NHS hospitals are hiding patient dissatisfaction with food. The claims referred to a disparity between the findings of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) In Patient Survey and those of the PEAT Surveys conducted by all NHS Trusts, with regard to the levels of patient dissatisfaction with NHS meals.

The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) has responded to claims by Sustain, under the banner of the Better Hospital Food Campaign, that NHS hospitals are hiding patient dissatisfaction with food. The claims referred to a disparity between the findings of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) In Patient Survey and those of the PEAT Surveys conducted by all NHS Trusts, with regard to the levels of patient dissatisfaction with NHS meals. 

Commenting on the Sustain report and the subsequent media coverage it inspired yesterday (27th August), Andy Jones, HCA Chair, said:

“Despite views to the contrary, hospital caterers are extremely concerned about providing meals that are wholesome and nutritious and suitable to meet the dietary needs and choice of all of their patients. As they see food as being as integral to patient care as medicine or treatment, they are well aware of the contribution good food makes to patient recovery.  However, to achieve that aim, it is important for all members of the clinical care team as well as caterers to recognise the role that good nutritional care can make to improving the patient’s clinical outcome.  To achieve this on a consistent basis, we need to see the setting of not only mandatory nutritional standards but also product specifications.

“Also, in order for all hospitals across the country to achieve a national standard, it will be essential for a mandatory minimum expenditure on all patient meals to be introduced.  This needs to be linked to inflation and reviewed on an annual basis to ensure it is in line with the current cost of food.

“In addition, the HCA has written to the Secretary of State for Health and all MPs calling for Protected Meal Times to be made mandatory in all hospitals and for more help to be provided for patients who need assistance to eat. As a consequence, an Early Day Motion has been tabled by a group of MPs who support the HCA’s call.

“The NHS is the UK catering industry’s largest provider of meals.  It is a complex operation involving a wide number of professionals, from those on the ward through to the team in the catering department.  Each is one link in a chain and each has a pivotal role to ensure a patient receives the right food at the right time in the right format.  Hospital catering has to operate 365 days a year, across all daily meal occasions from breakfast to dinner and it has to serve patients of every age group and multi-ethnic background.  This requires having to meet an extremely diverse range of dietary needs as a result of religious, health or medical requirements, often on tight budgets which are controlled by NHS Trust boards.

“Nutritional training for nurses and clinical staff is also called for to increase awareness and understanding of food intolerances and dietary conditions as well as the role of good nutrition in patient care.

“The caterers must be allowed to once again take ownership of the ward service. This, too, would ensure that clinical teams can then focus on better monitoring and communication of individual patient food and drink requirements and intake.  Improved screening of patients’ nutritional status on admission is needed so that special dietary conditions or needs can be identified. The food served, as already mentioned, needs not only to be wholesome and nutritious, but when it arrives on the ward must be served immediately.  Food which is cold or lukewarm will not be eaten, thus it does not matter if the system used is cook chill, cook freeze or traditional cook if it is not served to optimum standards.  Often judgement is passed on the whole meal service at this point in the chain, so this then has to be one key area we must all strive to ensure is correct.

“It is vitally important to hospital caterers in all four nations of the UK that we meet the needs of all the patients for which we care.  This is why the HCA strongly supports the Campaign for Better Hospital Food and the call for mandatory National Standards to apply in England as they already do in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

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