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Good nutrition in hospital may not be what you think, say experts

Staff at Harrogate District Hospital have been running a Nutrition Focus Week to explain that the “healthy eating” message does not necessarily apply to all patients

Dietitian Jill Gale explained:

Undernutrition (characterised by weight loss and poor appetite) is very common in hospital patients. Whilst we promote the ‘healthy eating’ message to the majority of the population, i.e. encouraging a low fat intake and five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, this does not necessarily apply to poorly hospital patients.

After illness or an operation, the body actually needs extra calories and protein to aid recovery. Yet these increased requirements occur at a time when appetite (and food intake) is usually reduced. In this situation it is important that patients receive a nourishing diet which provides the important calories and protein in small portions of food and fluids. Staff promote the ‘little and often’ approach to eating. We encourage high calorie between meal snacks which may include cakes, biscuits, milky drinks or crisps!

The aim of Nutrition Focus Week is to highlight to staff, patients and visitors the systems which we have in place at HDFT to support nutritionally ‘at risk’ patients. This includes Protected Mealtimes, the ‘Red Tray’ system, recruitment of ward based Nutrition Assistants and mealtime volunteers.

Between 25 and 34% of patients are malnourished on admission to hospital across the NHS and appropriate nutritional support can reduce length of hospital stay by 2 days and reduce readmissions by 28%.

The week is also being used to highlight the work of the Hospital’s Catering team, who produce over half a million meals a year, from eight different menus including Halal, Kosher, Gluten free and altered consistency meals for patients with swallowing difficulties.

Stan Ash, Hotel Services Manager
Stan Ash, Hotel Services Manager

Stan Ash, Hotel Services Manager, added:

Our Catering team do an amazing job and what we serve on the wards is the same as we serve in our popular staff and public restaurant, Herriot’s. But we know we can always do better and we are taking the opportunity of our Nutrition Focus Week to talk to patients and find out more about what they think of our food.

Food is always available for patients, 24 hours a day and we aim to make it both nutritious and healthy, whatever their needs.

Among those taking part in Nutrition Focus Week are the Nutrition & Dietetic, Speech and Language Therapy and catering departments, the volunteer Patient Voice Group and ward based Nutrition Assistants.

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