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Picture of excellence as new food menu launches across Trust

Friday, 11 July, 2014
Picture of excellence as new food menu launches across Trust

Elderly and dementia patients across North Tyneside and Northumberland are set to benefit from a novel idea that is helping them to eat well during their time in hospital.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has launched an innovative new picture food menu, believed to be the first of its kind in England, which allows patients to choose their meals from pictures rather than written menus, helping to improve hydration, nutrition and aid their recovery. 

The simple idea originated from the Trust’s Catering Superintendent Michael Taylor, who together with Nutrition Nurse Specialist Allison Baxter, acted on feedback from ward managers that many elderly and dementia patients would simply order whatever food was last on the menu as they found it difficult to remember other options and express their preferences.  

Thanks to £500 funding from Bright Northumbria, the Trust’s registered charity, a trial of the picture menu on three wards last year, showed a drastic increase in the amount of food being eaten by vulnerable elderly patients – helping to improve nutrition and the healing process.

After hearing of the success of the trial, Chief Executive Jim Mackey threw his weight behind the project which has now been rolled out across all three of the Trust’s main general hospitals – North Tyneside, Wansbeck and now Hexham.

The menus include both summer and winter choices for patients, in line with NHS guidelines, to ensure patients get the right nutrition during their stay in hospital.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Catering Superintendent Michael said: “NHS guidelines advise us to offer patients nutritional support in the safest, simplest way and that’s exactly what we did.  The book features large pictures of the food on offer which helps patients to choose the food they prefer more easily and our ward staff say it is also helping to stimulate patients’ appetites.”

Nutrition Nurse Specialist Allison is delighted with the result: “We all know that ensuring patients receive adequate nutrition is an essential part of basic patient care and by doing this well can make a real difference. Most of our patients are elderly and have conditions that are physical or cognitive or both, so anything that helps them to eat well and choose the food they like and enjoy is worth trying.”

Caroline Burden, area manager for the north east and Cumbria at Alzheimer’s Society, said:   “How we care for the elderly and people living with dementia today is vitally important and Northumbria is setting an excellent example of how the NHS can improve experience for patients whilst they are in hospital.

“Something as simple as a more appealing food menu can have a real impact on making sure vulnerable patients get the right levels of nutrition and hydration during their stay in hospital and also means families are reassured that their loved ones are being well looked after.”

New data published by the NHS Information Centre only last month shows Northumbria Healthcare as one the top performing organisations in the country when it comes to food and hydration of patients.  

All ten of the Trust’s hospital and community sites were voted ‘excellent’ in the annual Patient Environment Action Team (PEAT) scores which look at the quality of  non clinical services which impact upon patient experience of healthcare, including food and hydration.