Hospitals get novel idea for their menus

Michael Taylor, catering supterintendent at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, with the new picture food menu for elderly and dementia patients.
Michael Taylor, catering supterintendent at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, with the new picture food menu for elderly and dementia patients.
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A NOVEL idea to help elderly and dementia patients choose their meals while in hospital is being rolled out in the borough.

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.

Officials believe the scheme will help to improve hydration, nutrition and aid their recovery.

The idea originated from 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 an 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 Hexham.

The menus include both summer and winter choices to ensure patients get the right nutrition during their stay in hospital.

Michael, pictured, 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.”

Allison added: “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.”