Helping to change the face of hospital food

09/10/2009 - 00:00
With hospital food being the butt of many jokes over the years – and even the focus of a current well-read internet blog - Lifespan Catering Services has well and truly shattered the myth of it being bland and boring.

Next year sees the Cambridge-based catering arm of Anglia Support Partnership notch up its 20th anniversary. And far from serving up wallpaper paste consistency soup, dry mashed potato and lumpy custard (as the myths go) – Lifespan Catering Services uses an extensive range of 'cook chill' meals. Delicious tasting and well-presented meals incorporate numerous special diets and nutritional requirements, based on patient information received from the many hospitals the service delivers to on a daily basis. This is a highly successful alternative to the plated meal delivery service used by some hospitals, where a menu card is completed by the patient the day before. "A weakness of this system is that if a patient is discharged, the new patient occupying the bed gets the previous patient's choice – which isn't always a good idea," said Trevor Colcomb, head of catering. "Another down side is that any food waste is kept in the kitchen rather than being offered as seconds. In hospital, mealtimes become a focus for the patient, and it is easy for them to visualise a banquet whilst waiting for the mealtime to come around. "Imagine the disappointment of some when a condensation-filled plate warmer is removed from the plate, and the food the patient ordered yesterday isn't really what they fancy today. "Hospital food is one of the critical factors to a patient's recovery, particularly in terms of nutritional content. Presenting the patient with hot, visually attractive, appetising and above all flavoursome food is what we pride ourselves on," added Trevor. "Our first choice of ingredients is to always use fresh if it is available and cost effective. This focus has led to using fresh potatoes and vegetables from local suppliers amounting to approximately 120,000 kilos of East Anglia red potatoes for our fresh mash and 31,000 kilos of carrots each year." Over 24,000 portions of food are produced each day, with the business operating seven days a week, 365 days a year. Over 5,000 patients eat the food daily at NHS and private hospitals in and around Cambridge, Norfolk, Suffolk, Leicester and London. The meals are produced within rigorous guidelines issued by the Department of Health, and delivered to hospitals where they are re-heated and served to patients who are able to select from a hot trolley. Did you know: In medieval hospitals, the monks used to cook the meals – and in the 1700 and 1800s, nurses, soldiers and even porters' wives undertook the task. In the 1700s, most British hospital diets comprised of bread, beef and beer! In the 1800s, other than potatoes, fruit and vegetables rarely appeared on patients' diets. Additions frequently depended on donations as well as generosity from family and friends. With the rise of nutritional science, hospital diets were more carefully considered in the 1900s.

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