The man who made hospital food edible, enjoyable and sustainable

Updated on 15 February 2013 | 0 Comments

Mike Duckett has spent the last 12 years battling to improve the quality of a London hospital's food. Here he tells us in his own words about the many benefits of good food on the wards.

I began what I like to think is a revolution in hospital catering twelve years ago when I was appointed head of catering at the Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea, London.

Fresh and local

From the start I was active in increasing the fresh food ingredients in all recipes and identified that patients, staff and visitors appreciated the improvement in taste of the food. They were also interested in the fact that food came from local farmers and smaller businesses. Today 36% of all our food is sourced from within 50 to 80 miles of Central London.

We found that patient satisfaction increased to 76% in national patients surveys, which put the Royal Brompton in the top 10 hospitals nationwide. The staff canteen revenue also increased by 100% as staff appreciated the improvement in meals.

Food as medicine

As a result of these efforts, the Trust recognised this as a major contribution to the patient recovery – eating good food gets you better, quicker. This means that food has a higher profile not only in budget allocation, but secures the local food procurement as priority.

This sustainable policy spproach meant that other organisations got involved too, such as Sustain and the Soil Association. This was followed up with a visit from HRH Prince Charles who spent time in the production kitchen and spoke to patients.

With all our successes, food was taken seriously by the medical and nursing staff and this was supported by the patients being more relaxed after having a good meal which meant the ward staff were more accepted when giving the more difficult medical attention. The dietitians also gave their support as nutrition was increased by patients eating more food and less was left on the plate as waste.

A changing season menu

The menu was changed to incorporate freshly made soups twice a day, and local foods like venison, game, wild rabbit and local bacon from Essex, as well as organic beef burgers, which all proved to be value for money. Potatoes are grown for the hospital by local suppliers in Kent, and 50,000 free range eggs are used a year. There’s also organic milk for breakfast and a pudding every day including custard. All the hospital recipes were formulated on site with the dietitians and feature fresh ingredients - no convenience foods are used for the main meals.

Eating at the right time

The timings of the meals were changed so that the length of time patients went without eating was shortened. Breakfast is now a cooked meal increasing the protein intake by 20g, a lighter bistro style lunch is served at approx 1pm, and the evening meal is now served at 6.30/7pm, which is an hour later than it used to be done and more in line with what happens at home.

The Catering department at the Royal Brompton has won many awards and was recognised as the best hospital for food nationwide by the Hospital Caterers Association. I was also award an MBE in 2009

Have you ever had hospital food? How was it? Let us know in the comments below.

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