I have written a lot about the way elderly people are malnourished in hospital but it seems like senior officials at the NHS were out to lunch at the time.
See the previous blog – Food for Thought – by clicking on June 2012 in the ARCHIVE.
Dr Liz Jones is Head of Patient Experience at the Department of Health and is responsible for policy on hospital food. Anyone with that title must risk being sacked every day. At the Age UK Later Life Conference this year, she shared some pearls of wisdom which tell you why the Department of Health is so starved of ideas on this vital issue. She said:-
- “If we give them nice food, it will make them feel better” – I wonder how long it took for her reach that revelation? Judging by all the reports of malnutrition in hospitals, perhaps she should have said “If we give them any food it will make them feel better”.
- “Patients need better nutritional care because if they do not eat enough they will get sicker quicker and better slower” – that’s a nice sound bite!
- “Many uneaten dishes are recipes that elderly patients would not normally eat” – 30 million uneaten meals are thrown away annually. You think that would tell Dr Jones something rather more strategic than just taking Tai Curry off the menu.
- “Older people are at risk of not eating enough because they had become terrified by anti-obesity campaigns” – what planet is this woman on?
- “Give elderly people unhealthy treats such as doughnuts, ice cream and chips” – presumably not all at once.
- “Encourage them to eat as part of an overhaul of hospital foods” – after all the efforts of Lloyd Grossman, Hester Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver, nothing seems to have changed.
Finally the key word:-
What is missing from Dr Jones’ recipe is the nursing staff making mealtimes a priority not an interruption in their form-filling days.
Bring relatives and visitors in at lunchtimes and make mealtimes enjoyable, instead of serving up patronising platitudes.