For the first time in the UK, a new system being rolled out across the Royal Bournemouth Hospital will see patients more empowered when it comes to choosing and ordering meals.
Instead of completing a paper menu a day in advance, a new bedside touch screen system will allow patients to preview dishes of the day and make selections just hours before meals are served.
The menu, ordered free via Hospedia screens, features a picture and description of the meal and dietary information such as calories, protein and fat.
Terry Reeves, Catering Manager, said: “Our patients are provided with a full range of hot meals, sandwiches, salads and snacks which are planned by the catering team and dieticians.
“Even when you are not unwell, it is difficult to choose a meal a day in advance – what you feel like eating one day, you may not feel like eating the next. By making a choice on the day, patients are more likely to eat a full meal and get the essential nutrients needed to help their recovery.
“Not all patients will feel confident, or be able, to complete their selection, so they will be helped to make a selection by a ward hostess, a healthcare assistant or one of our volunteer mealtime companions.” The changes are partly based on evidence from research undertaken by Dr Heather Hartwell, Associate Professor with the School of Tourism at Bournemouth University. The menu will incorporate elements of her research including details of where the food comes from and if it is organic.
Heather, who has been working with hospitals since 1999 and studying food service in the hospital environment, found that that patients would eat less of the meal if it was pre-ordered the day before and delivered the following day.
She said: “Meals are an essential part of patient care, as they are a fundamental factor in aiding recovery. Current research shows that information about the source of ingredients or nutritional value is a motivating factor when choosing meals.
“The Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (RBCH) has always been ahead of the game as Terry and his team work closely with trust dieticians to create innovative, healthy meals which increase patient satisfaction.”
In line with the NHS movement to enhance the working environment for NHS staff, improvements are also being rolled out in the restaurants at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital and Christchurch Hospitals. Menus are being altered so they are healthier and sourced locally and seasonally, while packaging will soon display a traffic light system so staff, patients and visitors will find it easier to make a healthy choice.