Thank God hospital food has got better in recent years… But it’s still terrible

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In December 2013, whilst my family waited patiently for the arrival of my niece, I was admitted into hospital with a terrible chest infection that lasted one very long horrendous week. Throughout my stay, my lack of social activity was on the down-low spending each day and night lying on a bed in a ward filled with women over the age of 60 who all had one thing in common – a poster above their heads saying ‘Nil by Mouth.’ If that wasn’t terrifying enough for anyone plugged up to a machine with a ventilator strapped to their face wondering if the cause of smoking was the reason for my long visit rather than just my asthma, I don’t know what is. The only way I could entertain myself was through my mum coming in and expressing her concern and dismay that I’d be stupid enough to put myself in this position, my best friend entertaining me with the usual gossip or writing on my blog at the time.

During that week’s spell, I spent a large amount of time confined to my bed and being the social media girl that I am, I thought I’d blog and inform my followers across my social channels the up’s and down’s of my stint in West Middlesex Hospital and boy was there. The main part that seemed to grab the most attention was the food. Food glorious food, except in this instance the food was atrocious. With family favourites such as roast beef, curry and chicken and chips, you’d think the choice would be quite nutritious and pleasant for the average patient, but oh no!

Whilst I was in hospital waiting for the arrival of Emily, the one thing I wasn’t looking forward to was the food. OK, yes I should be saying the birth and I was terrified of that, but that had to happen and I didn’t know how it was going to feel and I couldn’t stress about something that wasn’t going to happen for hours, but the food, the thing that kept us fed, I wasn’t looking forward to that after the experience 5 years prior.

I was, funnily enough, pleasantly surprised. I was given a menu, yes, a menu and asked a few hours in advance what I wanted for each meal of the day and you got to choose a drink (hot or cold), a main, a dessert and what fruit you wanted. Granted, I had brought in enough food for a teddy bear’s picnic so I only ate one meal but Sam refused to let whatever was on offer go to waste and he happily ate whatever was picked and decided upon. It wasn’t the best food but it was a vast improvement from before.

Fish and Chips is a national favourite. We as Brits have grown up with this traditional dish and it’s a family favourite. Although the below photo doesn’t look great it tasted nice and was hot! That’s got to count for something in a hospital, right?

 The rest of the meals served included soup, sandwiches and hot dishes. All the dishes served didn’t include salads or vegetables which is, as always surprising seeing as a hospital is supposed to make you feel better! Most of their meals are high in carbs, highly processed, and lacking freshness which doesn’t help fulfil your daily nutritional intake requirements. The big question for me is why aren’t hospital dietitians and nutritionists doing their very best to provide the best for their patients? I’d like to believe that hospital chiefs have their patients dietary concerns in mind but I just don’t see how the above is nutritious enough. Maybe the food contracts with the catering companies are cheap hence the reason the food lacks creativity or nutrition. It must be the cost, that’s the only thing that makes the most sense here with food being so terrible. These companies focus on producing high volumes of food at a low cost, which allows them to send packaged and prepared food (most frozen) to the hospitals they have contracts with. By the time the food reaches the hospital, it could be well past its peak and could have harmful substances swimming around in it. Depending on whether the food is cooked on site or remotely, the food would have to remain bland to maintain whatever nutritional (if there is such a thing) left in each meal.

We don’t live in the stone age, we live in 2017 and hospital chiefs should look beyond budget cuts and provide a healthy diet for patients. I spent a good £10-£15 of sandwiches, fruit and drinks before going into the labour ward and Sam spent about £40-£50 on food and drink in the cafeteria for the 3 days we were in hospital. It’s mad that something more isn’t done about this. Although the cafe on site provided a good selection of hot and cold meals they were rather expensive and the cost does add up. The NHS’ Live Well campaign promotes healthy living for everyone to help each individual Briton eat healthier and live a healthier life. It’s just a shame that this policy doesn’t seem stretch out to their hospital food as well. Hopefully this will change in the next few years. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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