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Blogs / 01.12.2021

Why a flexible foodservice is key to efficient patient flow

The mammoth task of reducing waiting lists means the NHS must find new and ingenious ways to provide more care – in many cases without any increase in staffing or resources. The commitment of staff isn’t in doubt, but is the system up to the challenge? Can it adapt quickly to support new ways of working?

In a world where no possibility is off the table, flexibility will be crucial. Whether it’s pop-up operating theatres in the car park or outpatient clinics running late-night appointments, your support systems need to be able to say, ‘yes, we can flex to meet these new challenges’. Keeping your patient flow operating at maximum efficiency will depend on every aspect of your support systems working together like a well-oiled machine.

A flexible foodservice will be a key part in smoothing your patient flow in your new operating environment. It might not be your first thought, but it’s an important one. Being able to provide patients with the nutritious meals they need to recover has a significant impact on the length of their stay and the overall quality of their experience. A malnourished patient needs care for longer, tying up resources that could go into treating the next person on the waiting list.

And yet, even though patients have always needed meals at unusual times, traditional hospital foodservice systems fail to deliver on flexibility.

Historically, they’re planned around the idea that a patient stays put on one ward for their three meals a day. Kitchens only operate during the day on relatively long lead times, so a new patient arriving after orders have gone in doesn’t get any choice in their meal – if there’s a proper meal for them available in the first place. Patients who are off the ward for treatment during a mealtime miss out completely, and the best they can hope for is a snack box to tide them over. As for women who are desperate for a meal after giving birth in the middle of the night – they’ll be lucky to get tea and toast.

Where’s the flexibility to deliver tasty and nutritious meals to patients when they need them? And how can an already inflexible system hope to support an NHS that’s gearing up to embrace new operating models?

Our Steamplicity micro-steaming system means you can serve a freshly cooked meal to patients within minutes, 24 hours a day. It frees you from the tyranny of an expensive central kitchen only available during core operating hours and replaces it with a foodservice that’s especially designed to be responsive.

Our à la carte menu brings a restaurant feel to your foodservice, offering a choice of 30 tasty dishes that include international cuisines, vegetarian and vegan options as well as finger food meals created to encourage people with dementia to eat well. It arrives with you chilled, plated and ready to be steam cooked by any member of staff at a moment’s notice. It’s easy to keep a stock of extra meals in your central chiller to nourish patients around the clock so, no matter when they need it, they can have their first choice of dish. Many of the hospitals we support with Steamplicity have trained their portering or security teams to deliver and cook these ‘extra’ meals to keep patients fed, releasing nursing staff to focus on core care tasks.

Improving your patient flow while you work to cut waiting lists is going to depend on bringing flexibility into your operation. Why not start by reimagining your foodservice? Get in touch to arrange a time to talk through all the options with one of our experts.

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