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New hospital food menu set to aid patients' recovery

NPT Catering team

Neath Port Talbot Hospital’s catering department is casting aside the tired hospital food clichés to offer nutritious fayre that aids patients’ recovery.

More variety and choice is on the menu, with dishes designed to deliver the nutrition patients need to get well.

A new menu which was introduced last year has been key, rotating once a fortnight instead of once a week, so long-term patients have more choice.

All patients are encouraged to give feedback on their meals, and nursing and housekeeping staff are also volunteer taste-testers to ensure new dishes get the thumbs up before being served.

The moves are in line with the health board’s quality priority around nutrition and hydration.

Jayne Whitney, Swansea Bay’s Quality Improvement Lead for Nutrition and Hydration, said: “We are raising the profile of our catering departments and cascading patient menu choices, allergen options, specialised diets and snack provision.”

She explained that studies show around one in three patients are considered malnourished or at risk of it, and early identification and treatment is key as they can face 30% longer stays in hospital.

Nutritional status not only affects the length of hospital stay, but also rehabilitation outcomes, hospital admissions, re-admissions and clinical outcomes.

The catering teams provide nutritious meals, snacks and drinks, all while working within a tight budget.

Jayne paid tribute to their hard work, adding: “I have seen first-hand the challenges faced by our dedicated catering departments who are committed to ensuring our patients receive three nutritional meals daily, plus beverages and snacks, all within a budget of £5.97 per patient.”

Catherine Jones Catherine Jones, Neath Port Talbot Hospital’s support services manager, and her team of caterers are determined to ensure patients are offered tasty and nutritious fayre.

She said: “We’re trying to change people’s perceptions. We appreciate we can’t change everyone, but we want people to come in with an expectation that they are going to be offered something nutritious.

“We’re aiming to give patients more choice, within our resources.”

Catherine believes standards are relatively high, with a good variety of meals on offer.

She said: “I think our standards are pretty good but there’s always room for improvement.

“Obviously, we have limited resources to work with, and within those resources there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t see.

“For me it’s about raising the profile of hospital food. Food is an important aspect of our lives – we are what we eat. That applies to patients within the hospital setting as well.”

A great deal of work has gone into devising a new fortnightly menu to offer a wider choice.

Catherine said: “The new two-week menu was introduced last year.  To date, it has been a success. It’s obviously less repetitive than the previous weekly one.

“For breakfast it’s usually cereals and toast with fresh fruit and orange juice on offer.  Those who are under nourished are also offered a cooked breakfast.

“For lunch and supper, a minimum of three to four choices are offered with a variety of snacks in between.

“In addition, in the evening outside of our usual operating hours, the nursing staff will offer hot drinks and snacks.”

Catherine was keen to point out that hydration is also very much a focal point with each patient offered a choice of hot and cold beverages several times a day in addition to fresh water always readily available.

She said: “We have water, squash, fruit juice, milk, hot beverages – tea, coffee, hot chocolate, hot milk. We also offer plant-based milk.”

The procurement service also plays a massive role behind the scenes, sourcing and negotiating the best deal for products.

Catherine said: “There is a focus on quality and the nutritional value of the food we are trying to source to meet the patient’s needs, and where possible sourcing locally.”

To date, the reviews have, on the whole, been favourable.

Catherine said: “The goal is, our patients have something that they like to eat, and enjoy it.

“There is always room for improvement and we do our best to address any points raised in our patient surveys that are issued monthly.

“We encourage patient feedback to improve the service we can offer.”  

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