A survey of catering managers on the issue of healthy eating has provided a unique snapshot of the preferred cooking methods being used in the healthcare sector.
UNISON and the Campaign for Better Hospital Food questioned bosses at all 723 hospitals on the ways in which they cooked hospital food and the factors they felt influenced their ability to cook high quality patient meals.
Just over half of respondents revealed that they prepare and cook patient meals from scratch in their hospital’s own on-site kitchen.
For the remainder, 23% said meals were cooked in a central production kitchen (CPU) — either within the hospital premises or off-site — with meals reheated on the ward.
A similar number said they cook a combination of delivered meals and meals which are made in an on-site kitchen. 4.6% said they cook meals which are delivered to t hem by contract caterers.
Interestingly, the figures are at odds with what the NHS has published. Its data suggests that 40% of patient meals in England are delivered to hospitals by catering companies, 33% of meals are cooked in a hospital’s own kitchen and 22% are made in a CPU.
When asked for their preference, 84% of those surveyed by UNISON said that, given the choice, they would most like to prepare and cook patient meals from scratch in their hospital’s own kitchen.
UNISON said that given half of hospital caterers already cook meals this way, you could conclude that at least 3 out of the 10 caterers surveyed do not currently prepare and cook patient meals from scratch, but would like to. It did note, however, that not all hospitals have kitchens.
Access to the right catering equipment was a theme within the survey. Many of the caterers polled indicated that they need more staff and training, and “better” equipment.
One respondent moaned: “Our new hospital was built in 2010 and the catering flat trolleys fell apart within six months. The hot food boxes for transporting from kitchen to ward are dangerous both to catering and ward staff…the equipment installed is very budget range and difficult to clean.”
Three out of 10 caterers confessed they were unable to do their job properly, blaming their predicament on both a lack of staff and a lack of equipment or equipment that is of a poor quality.