Older patients in North Tyneside and Northumberland are set to benefit from a novel approach to helping them to eat well while in hospital.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has launched a new picture food menu, which allows patients to choose their meals from pictures rather than written menus. It believes it to be the first of its kind in England.
The idea was developed by the trust’s catering superintendent Michael Taylor and nutrition nurse specialist Allison Baxter.
Mr Taylor said: “The [menu] book features large pictures of the food on offer, which helps patients to choose the food they prefer more easily and our ward staff say it is also helping to stimulate patients’ appetites.”
They acted on feedback from ward managers that many elderly and dementia patients would simply order whatever food was last on the menu, as they found it difficult to remember other options and express their preferences.
The picture menu was trialed on three wards last year. It showed a significant increase in the amount of food being eaten by older patients.
The project has now been rolled out across all three of the trust’s main general hospitals – North Tyneside, Wansbeck and Hexham.
Ms Baxter said she was delighted. “We all know that ensuring patients receive adequate nutrition is an essential part of basic patient care and by doing this well can make a real difference,” she said.
“Most of our patients are elderly and have conditions that are physical or cognitive or both, so anything that helps them to eat well and choose the food they like and enjoy is worth trying.”
The menus include both summer and winter choices for patients, in line with NHS guidelines, to ensure patients get the right nutrition during their stay in hospital.