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Put to the taste

18 April 2015

Health Care

There’s been a lot in the media about the state of hospital food but for an increasing number of patients it is really hard to swallow, nothing to do with the quality, but because of their illness they actually find it difficult to swallow food.

These include patients of all ages needing speech therapy and a lot with neurological conditions, such as strokes, head & neck cancer, dementia, Parkinson's or infections.

Now, the hospital catering team, Medirest, have brought in a new range of modified textured food for all wards to help give patients affected their dignity and bring life to their tastebuds back.

And of course for staff to recommend it, they have to know what it tastes like, so that is exactly what they did. Staff, from consultants and rehab assistants to physios and catering assistants to name but a few all did their best Gregg Wallace and John Torode Masterchef impressions when putting the food to the taste test.

There are four levels of food, labelled as B-E, which come in a thin puree, thick puree, pre-mashed or fork-mashable format, which designed for different difficulty in swallowing groups. And despite how some of the food might look compared to 'normal' food it has proved to be really popular with staff.

Claire Buckell, clinical development nurse, explained the big difference the food will make for patients. She said: "For a patient to enjoy their food it not only needs to taste nice but it also needs to look appetising to tempt them to eat it.

Having appealing modified texture food will play a big part in improving the quality of care we can offer our patients because eating properly is a vital part of their recovery. If patients don't eat properly they will become more confused, have less energy, become malnourished and take longer to heal. Our elderly unwell patients often need to consume far more calories to help their body heal. 

"Previously nursing staff may have struggled to encourage the patient when the modified texture meal didn't look very appetising. So we took the new modified texture range to each of the adult wards to show staff the difference and let them taste how nice the new products looked. Every ward agreed the new product is much nicer. A couple of staff even asked if they could finish the dish off once everyone else had had a taste! "

Staff trying the food on Westcliff ward included Merry Tamondong, a nurse, and Mary Burton, the ward clerk, who both gave the food the thumbs - or should that be yums up with Mary taking a liking to the shepherd's pie and treacle pudding and Merry voting with her taste buds enjoying the beans on toast and lemon pudding.