Cook Chill/Freeze

During my time working within different hospitals, it’s become more common that the trust boards have chosen to lose the on-site kitchens and go either cook-chill or cook-freeze. This is a reality for around 60% of the NHS.

Although their main kitchens might be mothballed, many still have a small working kitchen, which feeds the on-site restaurant. This can still be used to improve the patients' meals.

It was a bit more work for the kitchen... the feedback from the patients and staff was well worth it!
James Martin

A prime example of this was at the Royal Free in London, where we introduced freshly made soups and salads to compliment their cook-chill system. The soups and salads go up to the wards and are also sold in the restaurant helping to turn a profit. It was a bit more work for the kitchen, but no extra cost – and the feedback from the patients and staff was well worth it!

I think the moral is, just because you are serving one type of system, there is no reason why those meals can’t be supplemented with freshly cooked food.

The second project I took on, while looking at these systems was to go into a cook-chill production kitchen to develop their dishes. I spent a day at Wolverhampton’s Central Production Unit to better understand their processes. They have looked at all of my recipes and have kindly agreed to advise other cook-chill hospitals about utilising my recipes to get the best results. If you would like more information you can email rwh-tr.catering@nhs.net.

It’s worth mentioning that if you buy your patient food from a private supply, you are the customer and you can demand to have your patient food cooked to these recipes… if not, change suppliers to someone who would!

Royal Free: 'Patients are delighted'

"Our journey began in July 2012," writes David Sloman of the Royal Free Hospital in London, "when the BBC asked us to take part in series 2 of Operation Hospital Food following a successful first series in 2011. On reflection the hospital couldn't pass up on the opportunity to be a part of this nationwide campaign to improve hospital food and provide patients with quality and nutritionally balanced meals.

Our patients are delighted with the options and now regard the menu items as much tastier
Royal Free

"The team at the Royal Free has always championed new ways of developing our food services to improve the patient experience. We immediately identified the benefits of the project, a new patient menu with fresh home-made soups and freshly prepared salads which resonated with our patients and delivered a better quality food service.

"It also united our workforce, bringing together multi-disciplinary professionals from the ward, nursing teams and matrons, dieticians, speech and language therapists, facilities team and caterers who were determined to make this work. Our patients are delighted with the options and now regard the menu items as much tastier and easier on the palate.

"We held patient food focus groups with over 100 patients and service users who believe the introduction of the soup and salads as being a tremendous step forward for our food services.

"As we don’t have full scale production kitchens, we were limited to what we could achieve, and therefore, by introducing these home prepared options, we have reduced unnecessary food miles. We now purchase fresh ingredients from locally sourced suppliers and have reduced unnecessary spend on waste packaging to the extent that we have removed over 50,000 plastic disposable containers from our waste stream, much of which would have ended up in landfill.

"Finally, the fresh soups and salads are now all offered for sale in our staff restaurant, so for the first time we are now able to have commonality on both our patient and staff menu offer each day."

Royal Cornwall backs James's dishes

A spokesman for the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust writes: We are regularly using two of the fork mashable diets developed by the Tanner Brothers as part of the BBC Operation Hospital Food programme last year.

James rose to the challenge
Royal Cornwall

The recipes developed have become favourites with our patients and were affordable within budget constraints.

Feeding patients with swallowing difficulties is always just that little bit harder, as achieving the right balance of taste, texture and appearance is never easy.

James and Chris rose to the challenge and above all listened to what the patients, dieticians and speech therapists had to say.

It was a pleasure working with them, and they have left behind a legacy for patients in Cornwall and Devon to enjoy for years to come.