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'Project dietitian' appointed to help overhaul Ireland's hospital food

Improving the standard of food has been highlighted as a priority by Health Minister Simon Harris.

THE HSE HAS hired a dietitian to help oversee improvements in the standard of food on offer at Irish hospitals – for staff as well as patients.

The Department of Health is undertaking an effort to improve the quality of food at hospitals, and current minister Simon Harris highlighted it as a priority in one of his first speeches upon taking over the role last year.

A nationwide survey about hospital food and patient nutrition published last year found that some patients were forced to ask their families to bring in food for them.

The study by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found that 86% of the patients they spoke to were happy with how they were fed while in hospital but identified a number of areas for improvement.

Patients were often given very little detail about their food choices. According to the report:

In many cases, meals were described as ‘chicken’ or ‘fish’ with no further detail about how the meat was cooked (fried, baked or stewed) or about side dishes such as vegetables or sauces.

There was also a lack of choice for patients of various ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds.

Negative stories

A number of negative stories about poor hospital food hit the headlines in recent years, prompting the government to take action.

In Dublin, the Coombe maternity hospital reviewed its menu and improved the choices on offer after this photo of a meal served to one patient prompted criticism (see below). Similar local changes were also made at other hospitals.

345 Source: Lisa Carey/Twitter

“A project dietitian to lead on the development of a Food and Nutrition Policy in the HSE has recently been appointed and commenced work on this project,” junior minister at the Department of Health Catherine Byrne said in answer to a recent parliamentary question.

This builds on the HSE commitment to providing healthier food environments for staff and visitors by the implementing Calorie Posting on Menus in all hospitals and the ongoing implementation of the HSE healthier vending policy.

The current food and nutrition plan for hospitals, she said, ”includes the nutritional analysis of menus, protected mealtimes, malnutrition screening, therapeutic diets and assistance with eating as well as the healthier food environment for staff and visitors”.

Read: ‘Chicken’ or ‘fish’? Irish patients need more details about their hospital food >

Read: Where do you pay €1,000 a night for lumpy Weetabix and white toast? An Irish hospital >

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