NHS Borders give staff and patients food for thought

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Eating healthily, and eating well, is essential for patients recovering from illness or injury.

With this in mind, NHS Borders is implementing a comprehensive ‘Protecting Patient Mealtimes Policy’ for patients in all its hospitals to ensure patients are given the time, and the attention from nursing staff, they require to eat their meals.

Mairi Pollock, Associate Director of Nursing, said: “Protecting Patient Mealtimes means a period of time (one hour) when all other non urgent activities and treatments are stopped and that time is set aside solely for patients who are in hospital to eat their meals.

“It may seem obvious, but hospitals are very busy places. Doctors and nurses undertake patient review and medication rounds, we encourage friends and family to visit their loved ones, and patients also have appointments whilst they are in hospital.

”Protected mealtimes’, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, make sure that staff focus on the patients food intake three times a day. It is about remembering how important a mealtime is, and making sure every patient is able to eat their meal with few distractions, as they would at home.

“This initiative means that nursing staff and therapists have the time to prepare the patients, to make sure they are comfortable and to assist them in eating their meals, where necessary and to monitor their nutritional and fluid intake.

“All urgent and emergency treatments, however, will carry on as usual and those visitors and carers actively involved in assisting patients with meals will continue to be encouraged to visit and help at mealtimes.”

To support this initiative, NHS Borders is providing information to all staff to remind them of the importance of protected mealtimes and what they need to do to make this a success. In addition, information about the policy is available for family and friends who are planning to visit patients in hospital.

Each ward will display the times of their Protected Mealtimes – but as an average guide these will be 8-9am, 12-1pm, and 5-6pm. The public can help with the success of protecting patients’ mealtimes by keeping to visiting times, not phoning at mealtimes whenever possible and helping their relative at mealtimes if the patient needs help and they are willing to provide that help.

Mairi added: “It is clear that good food is provided in our hospitals. We received the third highest score in Scotland for ‘happy with food provided’ in the Better Together Inpatient Patient Experience Survey 2009.

“In the NHS Borders Catering Patient Satisfaction Survey we received an average overall satisfaction score of 96.5% for the past two years. However food, even when it is of the highest quality, is only of value if the patient actually eats it.

“Together, we can make sure that all our patients are given the help, and time, to eat, and enjoy their meals uninterrupted. Not only is this a more pleasant experience for them, it is also a key requirement in providing good nutrition which will help them to recover more quickly.”