Monday, August 31, 2009

Hospital v. Prison

I've been reading reports of the Bournemouth University research on nutrition in hospital. I'm sorry to say that it came as no surprise to me to see the conclusion: "Hospital patients don't consume enough. If you are using food as a means of treatment then it's not working."
I've never experienced prison food so I can't comment on that particular comparison, but I have had a great deal of experience over the last couple of years of the food provided to elderly relatives in our local hospital. A serving of soup seemed to be about a couple of tablespoonsful in the bottom of a bowl, already going cold. Something advertised on the menu as "Chicken Curry" turned out to be a dark brown mess which the patient couldn't face putting in her mouth. Perhaps even more depressing is the fact that the menu didn't change week by week so that for long stay patients there was a predictability which induced boredom. Add that to being expected to order hours in advance or to eat what someone else ordered the day before because they've gone home and you've been admitted - enough said.
I'm not even going to get into the debate about whether staff have the time to spend with the patients who need encouragement and help to eat and drink.
Some years ago in another local hospital there was an experiment on hospital nutrition. For a short period of time funding was made available to offer the "little and often" approach to food. The 3 main meals of the day were offered in a choice of small or large portions. Between meals there were snacks brought round at regular intervals - fruit, cereals, scones, little sandwiches, crackers & cheese. Patients could eat when they felt like it and staff would help and encourage. Patient recovery times were found to improve. The project made its way onto the BBC Food Programme on Radio 4. Then it disappeared. Nothing more was heard of it and the meals reverted to the old style. Those researchers must be really fed up when they read today's reports. Why spend money on research which produces positive results if you're not going to do anything with the results?
The NHS has many wonderful qualities and our family has benefitted many times, but on this there's been little improvement for the last decade or more. Something for the managers to think about?

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