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on the menu

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

A Hiqa study has found some deficiencies in patient choices.

A NATIONWIDE SURVEY about hospital food and patient nutrition has found that some patients were forced to ask their families to bring in food for the 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.

Hiqa carried out unannounced inspections in 13 hospitals, looked at information from a total of 42 facilities and also spoke to 579 patients.

The study found that patients were often given very little detail about their food choices.

“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,” the report states.

The report also points to the fact that, in general, patients order their meals a day in advance but that some hospitals are starting to allow patients choose their meal on the day they eat it.

Another problem the report pointed to is a lack of choice for patients of varying ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds.

About a third of the 42 hospitals surveyed said that their menus did not provide options for patients who may have different dietary requirements for religious reasons. This was most pronounced in smaller regional hospitals according to the survey but Hiqa says it is an area that requires “significant improvement”.

In general, most reported that they were satisfied with how the food was presented and Hiqa’s inspections also observed a number of examples of hospital staff accommodating patients when they had requested food that was not on the menu.

In 15 cases, however, patients had asked family to bring them food from home, either because they didn’t feel they were getting enough to eat or they didn’t like the food.

“Negative comments about the food focused mainly on its temperature, primarily that hot food was not hot enough,” the Hiqa report states. 

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

Read: The furore around fatty, inedible hospital food overshadows a far more serious issue >

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