Minister for Health launches new HSE Food, Nutrition and Hydration Policy for Adult Patients in Acute Hospitals

Leitrim Observer Reporter

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Leitrim Observer Reporter

Minister for Health launches new HSE Food, Nutrition and Hydration Policy for Adult Patients in Acute Hospitals

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, this week launched the HSE’s new Food, Nutrition and Hydration Policy at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.

Every day, there are approximately 10,500 patients in acute hospitals. Food provided to these patients is an important factor that influences both their clinical outcome and their overall satisfaction with their hospital experience.  This new policy aims to ensure that all adult patients in Acute Hospitals receive a patient-centred food and nutrition service, from their admission to their discharge from hospital.

The aim of the Food, Nutrition and Hydration Policy is to improve the quality and safety of food and nutritional care in hospitals, and to improve the experience for patients in acute hospitals. The policy provides a minimum nutrition standard for all hospitals and is translated into action through a toolkit for all staff involved in the provision of food and nutrition care (including chefs and catering staff, dietitians, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, environmental health, procurement staff, and many more).

Speaking at the Mater Hospital, Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said: “One of the key themes of Healthy Ireland is healthy eating, and this Policy incorporates our Healthy eating messages for nutritionally well patients, while also focusing on the importance of nourishing food as a core part of patient treatment in hospitals to meet their nutritional needs.

"We have asked patients in hospitals some food related questions in our National Patient Experience Survey in 2018 to find out what is working well in Irish hospitals and what needs to be improved. Over 13,000 patients completed the Survey and 71% of patients rated food good or very good. It is essential we continue to improve on this. The benefits of this policy are obvious.”

"This work is an excellent example of collaborative working and I would like to thank all those involved and to encourage catering and health professionals in all acute hospitals to embrace the Policy recommendations and put them into practice. By doing this, they will help patients attain and sustain good health during their hospital stay.”

Barbara Gillman, Clinical Specialist Renal Dietitian, led out on the project and explains the importance of nutritional screening and tailored meal plans for every patient: “On admission to hospital, patients will be screened to assess if they are nutritionally well or nutritionally at risk from conditions such as malnutrition, diabetes, allergies, swallowing issues, or perhaps they may need assistance with feeding or aids for eating and drinking. Once their needs are assessed, they will be assigned an appropriate hospital menu, or will be referred to a dietitian for a nutritional care plan and assistance if necessary. The patient will then be screened weekly to ensure their needs continue to be met.”

“Other initiatives in hospitals across the country include making mealtimes matter (minimising unnecessary interruptions at meal times, preparing the patient for their meal), colour coded menus/menu cards and serving trays to highlight a patient’s specific nutritional needs, replacement meals, education and training for all relevant staff, liaison between catering and dietetic departments to develop menus that provide the nutrition standard, and recommendations to minimise fasting.”

Catering for inpatients requires food provision to a varied group with special needs, including many who are already at risk of developing malnutrition. Malnutrition affects more than one in four patients admitted to hospitals.

Margaret O' Neill, HSE National Dietetic Advisor, outlined the impact of malnourished patients in acute hospitals: “Malnutrition is directly related to increased length of stay and complications for patients. It adversely affects every system in the body and increases mortality risk at all ages and across care settings. By undertaking screening on admission and by making mealtimes matter, hospital staff are promoting and maintaining an environment that is conductive to people enjoying their meals and having appropriate assistance to safely consume optimal amounts of their foods and drinks.”

The Policy was developed by the HSE in response to a request from the then Minister for Health, to update the Department of Health: Food and Nutritional Care in Hospitals, Guidelines for Preventing Under-Nutrition in Acute Hospitals (2009). The policy will be supported by a National Clinical Guideline: Nutrition Screening and Use of Oral Nutrition Support for Adults in the Acute Care Setting (Currently in development and expected publication date late 2019).

The policy applies to all adult patients in Acute Hospitals including Inpatients, Emergency Departments, and Day Procedure Units. All staff involved in the provision of food and nutrition care should use the policy recommendations to review and further develop services.

The objectives of the Policy are to:

1.            Improve the quality and safety of food and nutritional care in hospitals

2.            Ensure that areas for improvement as recommended by the Health Information And Quality Authority are addressed

3.            To improve patient experience

4.            To support recommendations from the National Clinical Guideline (NCG) : Nutrition Screening and Use of Oral Nutrition Support in the Acute Care Setting

Please find further information and links to the policy here:

https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/ who/acute-hospitals-division/ food-nutrition-and-hydration- policy-for-adult-patients/