Hospital bosses hit back over wasted meals claims

Preparation of patients' meals at South Tyneside District Hospital.
Preparation of patients' meals at South Tyneside District Hospital.

Hospital bosses in South Tyneside have served up a response to criticism that thousands of meals are being wasted.

Last week, pressure group, The Campaign for Better Hospital Food, claimed that South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields binned 60,000 meals a year.

There’s lots of factors as to why a meal may go untouched.

Ian Bullock, head of catering and domestic services

The Gazette was invited behind the scenes at the Harton Lane site to see what went into the creation of each dish and what happened to it after that.

Ian Bullock, head of catering and domestic services, said: “We aim to have a wastage rate of under two per cent per day, which roughly works out to under 12,000 meals a year, which is a lot less than started.

“At the end of the day we don’t force people to eat food. They might be unwell, they may be in surgery, they simply just might not fancy what they’ve ordered the day before – we’re all human and there’s lots of factors as to why a meal might go untouched.

“But I can categorically state that we receive more praise for our food than complaints – most people really enjoy them.

“We have a three-week menu which changes every three months, so there’s always lots of choice,

“However, mince and dumplings, the mince pie and lasagna always feature because they’re our most popular dishes.”

The first deliveries for the catering team begin at 7am as they unload the fresh produce and stock to create the 1,200 patient meals required that day.

Plus the hospital’s Alexander’s Restaurant also serves up the same menu and caters for 800 members of staff and visitors. Mr Bullock said: “All of the meals are nutritionally balanced, there’s a lot of malnourished people in South Tyneside, that’s a big problem for us.

“They might not be wafer -thin and starving, but they’re not getting the vitamins and minerals they require.

“These meals are all created with that in mind.”

In batches of 20 the meals are cooked – to avoid wastage – and by noon the first hot dishes of the day are brought up the hospital’s 18 wards.

The hospital operates a no visitor rule during meal times to ensure patients can enjoy their food in peace.

Richard Rutter, 77, from Northfield Road, in South Shields, who was admitted to Ward 5 earlier this month, was ready and waiting for his lunch

He said: “I’ve been in here for a little while now and the food is lovely. It’s well-cooked, there’s lots of options and it’s always very tasty, I can’t fault it.

“I can’t fault the nurses either, they’re all wonderful.”