A patient from Scotland says that poor hospital food delayed her recovery from surgery by several weeks.
Giselle Dye, from Portobello in Edinburgh, had a bad experience at the Western General hospital in the city.
Poor Recovery Nutrition
Dye says that she could have been home from the hospital in half the time it took, if she had just been fed properly.
She was recovering from surgery in April 2015 to treat a benign brain tumour. The operation was a success, but she then lingered in hospital for a month without getting the right nutrition.
She told BBC Scotland: “Obviously I was very weak after the surgery but I felt I was not getting enough of all the right things to eat.”
For the first 3 days of her hospital stay, she was on a soft diet of just pureed food. It was clear to her that those in chef jobs at the hospital were not producing a specific meal for her, but rather simply pureeing what they were making for everyone else.
She said: “They’d obviously taken a plate of food and pureed it, so I was given a plate of pink goo.”
She became very weak as a result of the lack of nutritional values in her meals. “After three or four days I realised I was fainting because I was hungry,” she said. “The care I got was fantastic but the food was frankly disappointing. There often wasn’t enough of it and when it came it was quite unappetising.”
The solution came not from outside the hospital, but from within it. Her husband began to bring boiled eggs to her every morning when he was on the way to work.
“Within three days I was stronger and better and getting up and moving,” she says. “I think I was in hospital a lot longer than I needed to be because I was not getting the right kind of food and I wasn’t getting enough food. I found it difficult to get any fruit. My husband brought in other things like peanut butter and toast, things that were easy to eat and enjoyable. One night I sent him out for fish and chips because I was so hungry.”
Low Spending Values
The poor experience that Dye had seems to correlate with a lack of spending in Scotland. Some hospitals there are restricting their budgets to just 94p per meal, per patient. This low figure means that corners have to be cut, with less healthy choices being made.
A Scottish Care Experience Survey recently noted the important factor of food for recovery, and said that the meals in hospitals match the national standards for food and nutritional care. But, it said, a “substantial percentage” of people were having a negative experience with food. Some people were having positive experiences, with satisfied ratings ranging from 56% to 91% across various hospitals. Perhaps more ingredients jobs could be created to ensure that the food produced is not just nutritionally balanced – but also appetising and filling, two major concerns which are apparently not being met with the current system.
NHS Lothian acknowledges that the food at Western General, where Dye stayed, was a hybrid model of frozen meals combined with food produced in the kitchens on site.
Dye, however, says she was told that the food was prepared off-site and brought in.
Dye says: “I think I was probably in hospital two weeks longer than I needed to be because I was weak. I was weak because I was not getting enough and the right kind of food to eat.”