It is imperative that hospital patients receive food that is safe, especially when they are vulnerable. By going digital, many organisations could improve food safety standards.
Caterers that provide food for patients in hospital, in care homes and in hospices must follow food hygiene and safety rules and regulations just as they would for any other client. However, they must also be aware that patients in these facilities are much more vulnerable than regular customers and may have specific dietary requirements. If a patient is given the wrong type of food, or food that is unsafe, the results could be damaging, or even life-threatening.
Currently, the UK is experiencing some issues when it comes to food safety in these vulnerable outlets. According to a new investigation by the Press Association, 400 hospitals, hospices, care homes, nurseries and school clubs score a three or below on the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Food Hygiene Ratings schemes. Eight of these premises had a rating of zero. This means that they all require either ‘major’, ‘urgent’, or ‘necessary’ improvements.
In many instances, ensuring regulations are met is made difficult by organisations using paper-based systems, filling in checklists manually and sifting through large numbers of records in order to monitor what happening. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
How will a digital system help?
Many companies and organisations, including the NHS, are switching their processes to digital food safety technology to help drive real benefits to healthcare providers, ensuring patient safety and improving operations at the same time.
The NHS website allows users to compare hospitals in relation to waiting times, facilities, special treatments, consultants and patient safety. When it comes to food safety, patients can see how a hospital performs according to the way it organises its food services and the quality of the food it serves. For even more detail, the NHS website publishes in-depth performance data. Users can also access information about the amount a hospital spends on its food services per patient, per day.
What are the benefits for patients?
Digitally storing food information for hospital catering provides greater visibility and control, prompting staff when checks are due. Information from this can be stored on the Cloud, meaning that is available for managers to access in real-time, should there be any issues.
Paper records can be misplaced, and they don’t guarantee that procedures are being followed as they are often filled in late. However digital food safety records cannot be tampered with and are much easier to share with food inspectors or hospital management. By doing this, time is saved as there is no need to prepare for inspections or carry out regular reporting.
What are the benefits for staff?
Staff members are often bogged down with the amount of paper checklists they need to fill in. However, by switching to digital, their time can be freed and in turn, used on preparing and serving food. Staff costs take up a large proportion of catering budgets, so improving productivity and effectiveness, without impacting safety, is crucial.
Digital systems are also able to guide food handlers through all stages of food safety checks, by telling them what to do if a reading is out of range, to ensure processes are always followed.
At the heart of all operations is the safety of patients and staff, and healthcare catering must meet the highest possible standards to ensure this. By switching over to digital technology, organisations will be provided with an easier, more productive way of delivering safe, hygienic food.