Following some critical TV programmes on Hospital food, we approached Harrogate Hospital asking if we could come and talk to them.
Stan Ash, the hotel services manager for the Hospital he explained how proud he is of the food they provide he further more would be delighted to have us tour the kitchens and talk to staff.
The kitchen provides meals for the 350 patients as well as the staff/visitor restaurant. Meals are freshly prepared each day and then taken to the wards using trollies with heated and cooled areas so that the food arrives on ward at the correct temperature.
The Head Chef, Jeff Havercroft, met us at the kitchen entrance and we donned a rather fetching white plastic coat to keep the hygiene in the kitchens, incidentally they have recently been awarded the top rating of 5 stars from Harrogate Council for their hygiene.
It was just after the lunch service had gone out so the kitchen was cleaning pots and pans before the dishes returned from the wards.
Jeff Havercroft showed us where they received fresh, fruit, vegetables and meat each day and the various cold-store and frozen storage facilities, but what was very evident was that they stored relatively little on the premises – food came and and was then used to prepare meals. There was a noticeable absence of pre-prepaired frozen food. The frozen food area had some frozen Scampi and ice cubes!
We were introduced to their pastry chief who used to work at Betty’s and was busily preparing that evening’s desert. By this time I was regretting my decision to skip breakfast that morning.
The kitchen occupies a large space and has been the subject of continued investment by the trust. the cleanliness and equipment was impressive. They proudly showed some of their latest acquisitions 3 state of the art £12,000 ovens that controlled both temperature and humidity with an LCD control and memory stick port no-less.
Around 10% of the patients have difficulty swallowing which requires them to have their food processed into a form so that they can ingest the food. Harrogate is one of only 2 Hospitals in the UK that prepares this specialist food itself. There are 3 stages of processing the food, depending on the how easily the patient can swallow. The food isn’t just liquidised and then presented in a bowl, but it is reformed into the shape of the original food. This is to make the meal look more appetising and to encourage patients to eat. Specialist dieticians on each ward assess each patient and recommend which is the most appropriate for each patient.
The diet chef, Kevin Tye, also explained about the red tray system that was introduced 2 years ago to ensure that those that may not be able to feed themselves are monitored more closely. A red tray is not removed without being checked and a record taken. The dieticians check carefully that the more vulnerable patients are getting the nutrition that they need.
All the Chief’s know the part they play in the recovery of a patient and that good nutrition meant a patient getting better – quicker. Jeff explained further “When you are in hospital for an extended period a meal can be one of the high-lights of the day and it all helps to aid recovery”.
We provide a nutritionally balanced menu, using standard recipies, that are checked by the Trust dieticians for nutritional values and the teamwork ethic within the department ensures that presentation and quality standards are maintained.
Talking to Lesley Phillips who receives all the menu card selections from each ward. She showed us the automatic card-reader which has removed many of the problems with collating individual selections. Lesley explained further about the special menus that are available in addition to the processed food there are also menus for gluten free, Halal, Kosher and Vegan. The Halal meals have to be be bought in as to be Halal they need to be prepared in a Halal-only kitchen.
Removing the plastic jacket we said good bye to the kitchen staff and left them and snucked into the restaurant to sample the food. There were a few options from salads, sandwiches made in front of you and selection of hot food. Feeling hungry I went for the roast pork with fruit crumble to follow. The pork had been slow roasted and the nicely generous portion just fell apart as you ate it. All in all a very nice lunch .