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Blogs / 05.10.2021

Are the days of the onsite hospital kitchen numbered?

Cooking all hospital meals onsite from a central kitchen sounds ideal. It conjures up images of skilled chefs working away in a steamy environment, carefully creating nourishing food that’s whisked away to patients and served while it’s still piping hot.

The reality today can be very different. As healthcare settings transform themselves to focus more on providing a safe and efficient patient experience, onsite kitchens can’t keep up.

For many, the limitations start before you even think about the food offering. A central kitchen is expensive to kit out and maintain, and many Trusts are facing big bills to bring older kitchens up to date. Plus, it’s a health and safety headache, packed with opportunities for slips, falls, burns and cuts. Staffing is expensive, too, and finding chefs with the right skillsets is getting harder. A lot of production chefs are coming to the end of their career, and there just aren’t the skilled people to replace them, particularly with the skills drain caused by the UK leaving the EU.

Consistency, choice and availability are a challenge, too. Can your onsite kitchen produce a wide range of enticing dishes to suit any dietary need or cultural preference? Can it do this to consistently high quality standards, while complying with all allergen and food safety legislation? And, as your Trust explores innovative ways to reduce waiting lists that extend the working day, can your kitchen deliver nutrition around the clock? Many Trust kitchens can only offer a limited menu choice during standard working hours – the cost of having a chef on call 24/7 just isn’t viable. Plus, even if a tasty, nutritious meal leaves the kitchen, it’s unlikely to be served fresh to the patient; on average there’s a gap of 1-2 hours between cooking and serving with a traditional kitchen set up.

So what’s the alternative?

Many Trusts go to the other extreme, and move to frozen meals, produced off site and reheated in mobile ovens. We all know how this can end up – dry and tough round the edges and potentially still cold in the middle. Often ingredients are cooked from frozen and then refrozen. It’s a far cry from the vision of the Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food for “safe food that has not been over-processed, which comes from good quality, sustainable ingredients, and is prepared with skill and care”.

There is a third way. The Steamplicity meal system takes raw, fresh ingredients and steam-cooks them to order using a patented system at ward level so they can be served immediately. Steam cooking chilled food is a much gentler cook than ‘regenerating’ a frozen meal, so delicate ingredients like fish and vegetables aren’t overcooked. In fact, this system retains more than double the vitamin levels of traditional cooking methods. It keeps the crunch, colour and nutrition in fresh vegetables, and delivers a much more enjoyable eating experience that’s much more likely to tempt patient appetites.

All the choice, flexibility and flavour you want is there, too. With Steamplicity, you can offer patients a menu of up to 30 different dishes a day, cooked to order, around the clock. All allergens are tracked and labelled and there’s something for every dietary need. In under five minutes, you can serve a patient’s choice of meal, created by our team of chefs and dieticians in our Cuisine Centre - a controlled environment audited by the British Retail Consortium. We invest in skilled chefs, so you don’t have to.

With Steamplicity, you’re nourishing patients with a premium experience of fresh food, cooked to order. To find out more about how fresh chilled food can enhance your patient experience, get in touch to arrange a time to talk through the options with one of our experts.

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