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NHS blue plates trial shows success

NHS caterers have recently discovered a way of getting frail and weak patients to eat more - by putting food on blue plates.

The simple switch of plates has resulted in elderly and weak patients eating almost a third more food than those served the same meals on white crockery.

Experts believe that this may be because food looks more appetising on a blue plate and that white and pale plates dull the appetite of ill people, as so much food including chicken, chips and mashed potato is light coloured.

The new crockery was tested in two 30-patient wards at Salisbury District Hospital and the average consumption went up from 114g (4oz) with white plates to 152g (5.4oz) with blue.
Head of catering Ian Robinson said: “It has proved so successful we are switching to blue crockery right across the hospital trust.”

Hospital malnutrition is a major problem in hospitals all across the UK, especially for the elderly, who occupy two in three beds. A case study by Age Concern, carried out in 2006, found that six in ten older patients were at risk of becoming malnourished in hospital.

Mr Robinson went on to say that darker plates help by improving the contrast and that blue plates were successful because there are never any blue foods on the plate.

The contrast is particularly important for those with dementia, who were the basis of the Salisbury trial. However, managers at the hospital believe that all 455-bed patients could benefit from the simple switch.

Mr Robinson added that blue plates are among a package of measures, including pictorial menus and volunteers, to help improve the diet of those patients who struggle to eat.