Brian RobbAs your Chairman, I’m delighted to launch a brand new page to appear in each issue of Hospital Caterer in support of our Nutrition and Hydration 24/7, 365 campaign. We all recognise the importance of the wholly worthwhile Nutrition and Hydration Week but an issue as important as this needs to be front of mind every hour of every day, not just one week a year.

Therefore, I’d like to ensure Nutrition and Hydration 24/7, 365 enjoys the same awareness for greater collaboration between caterers, nurses and dietitians as our other campaigns: Power of 3, The Last 9 Yards, and Empowering Recovery Through Food. As the name suggests, the aim of the campaign is to encourage and help members follow and promote best practice in patient nutrition and hydration, literally round the clock, focusing clearly on the importance of nutritious food and drinks.

So let’s look at the facts. The Hospital Food Review, which Phil Shelley chaired, found that 30 per cent of patients admitted to hospital are at risk of malnutrition – far greater than the population as a whole. At the same time, for those who are nutritionally well, a healthy diet reduces the chances of developing the major non-communicable diseases, whatever the patient’s weight. Offering hospital patients good nutrition and hydration can reduce recovery times, improve patient outcomes, and reduce costs to the NHS.

The key to improving matters is a trained workforce empowered to deliver healthier, more appetising food. This is what makes our Nutrition and Hydration 24/7, 365 campaign so important: actively promoting the preventative role caterers can play as a key part of quality care for patients. In the very difficult circumstances and financial pressures that hospitals face – Covid restrictions, changes to meal times and ward dining, more specialised and personalised diets, food safety, and choice – nutrition simply cannot be an afterthought.

I’d like this regular page to be a celebration of the good work we’re doing, and to showcase innovation in nutrition and hydration from members, their suppliers, and the industry generally. So please get in touch with your news and views, and we’ll feature your highlights. In the next issue, we’ll dedicate this page to what’s happening in Northern Ireland, and will then spotlight each HCA member nation in turn, through Wales, Scotland, and then England.

I look forward to hearing and publishing your stories. In the meantime, join us on Twitter @hospitalcaterer #nutritionhydration

Brian Robb, Honorary National Chairman, Hospital Caterers Association

Deborah McNeillIn the second edition of our Nutrition and Hydration 24/7, 365 focus, we put the spotlight on Northern Ireland and speak to Deborah McNeil, Chairman of the HCA’s Northern Ireland Branch.

“As we know, the Hospital Food Review found that 30 per cent of patients admitted to hospital are at risk of malnutrition, and for those who are nutritionally well, a healthy diet reduces the chances of developing the major non-communicable diseases.

“Food is not only necessary for life but is a source of great pleasure, with important social, cultural and religious functions. Here, since 2011, we’ve been following the Northern Ireland Government’s ‘Promoting Good Nutrition!’ strategy, which covers all health and social care settings, including people’s own homes. The strategy determines patient nutrition and hydration standards, and to ensure its implementation, we have created multi-disciplinary committees and working groups in all Trusts. These groups include caterers, dietitians, patient and nursing representatives, members from the independent care sector, speech and language therapy specialists, and others.

“We supplement this approach with Mealtime Matters, an initiative that started in the Northern Trust and is being adapted for use in all Trusts. This identifies the different roles and responsibilities for both nursing and catering staff to ensure each patient has the best possible mealtime. The checklist for each role is structured from making the right menu choices, and then through the various responsibilities before, during and after the meal.

“Tony O’Hara, our Branch Secretary, has developed recipe cards for texture-modified meals and is working with the Public Health Agency (PHA) to make these available for all private-sector and public-sector residential facilities and nursing homes.

“Finally, we also follow Northern Ireland’s Nutritional Standards document, which aims to ensure healthy eating for staff and visitors. This is overseen by a multi-agency group comprising the PHA, the Food Standards Agency, Safe Food (the Irish equivalent of the Food Standards Agency), the British Dietetic Association, and the HCA.”

Alison HowellsIt’s been really exciting hearing about all your nutrition and hydration activity and innovations. In the third edition of our Nutrition and Hydration 24/7, 365 focus, we turn the spotlight onto Wales, with Alison Howells, Chairman of the Wales HCA Branch.

“We are always keen to encourage and help members follow and promote best practice in patient nutrition and hydration, focusing clearly on the importance of nutritious food and drinks, and the activities detailed below are just some of the work that is being done.

“At Cwm Taf LHB, learning and awareness events have been held to promote good nutritional care and inform the public and staff about the excellent initiatives in place to ensure patients receive a high standard of nutrition and hydration while in hospital.

“Celebrating Nutrition and Hydration week, a team of nurses, dieticians and catering staff provided staff and the public with the opportunity to find out their BMI (body mass index) by having their weights and heights measured. We also made a selection of supplement drinks and puddings available for all to taste, and encouraged the public and staff to take part in the RCN’s hydration quiz, using the opportunity to obtain feedback on catering services within the restaurant and on the wards.

“In our community hospitals, we are currently supporting nursing staff in serving high tea in the afternoons, plus a regular Welsh-themed tea, both of which are in addition to serving the necessary six hot drinks daily. In our staff and visitor restaurants and dining rooms, dieticians promote good hydration, display nutrition information posters, and promote the preventative role caterers can play, which is a key part of the overall quality of care for patients. We also use these opportunities to promote new drinks on the market, such as flavoured waters, by providing samples sourced from contractors and asking for feedback (we always ensure staff and customers receive bottled water at meal times as well). Finally, all our retail outlets have digital display screens that display the calorific value of all the products on sale, clearly promoting a healthy lifestyle and allowing everyone to make an informed choice on good nutrition.”

Nicola McIverIn the fourth edition of our Nutrition and Hydration 24/7, 365 focus, we turn the spotlight onto Scotland, with Nicola McIvor, member of the HCA’s West of Scotland Branch.

Within Scotland, all NHS Boards must comply with the Food in Hospitals: National Catering and Nutrition Specification for Food and Fluid Provision in Hospitals in Scotland. This specification sets out nutrition and catering criteria for meeting the Healthcare Improvement Scotland standards for food, fluid and nutritional care. It also offers guidance for implementing local protocols for providing food and fluid to patients, and helps catering and dietetic staff follow Scottish Government and NHS policies.

The Healthcare Improvement Scotland standards cover factors such as ensuring patients receive safe, effective and person-centred nutritional care; assessment, screening and care planning; structures and processes for planning the provision of food and fluid; giving patients information about their food, fluid and nutritional care; and seeking their views. The ultimate aim is to support the current culture change in hospital catering, recognising the importance of food provision and its influence on health and recovery, and enabling NHS Boards to share best practice and learn from each other.

Similarly, we apply specific standards in our NHS retail outlets. They must all achieve a Healthyliving Award, which is a national scheme for the foodservice sector in Scotland, based on Scottish dietary targets. Retail outlets in healthcare buildings also have to comply with the SGF Healthcare Retail Standard, which means providing foods not high in fat, salt and sugar, and promoting healthier choices such as fruit and vegetables.

Just as important is the nutrition provided to hospital staff. The Scottish Government identified the importance of employee wellbeing throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and asked all NHS Boards to provide areas for relaxing, with hot food and drinks available at all times. Continuing this, along with meeting the above standards, will ensure we keep addressing the nutrition and hydration needs of everyone using our healthcare buildings: patients, visitors and staff.

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