I have been unfortunate enough to have been in hospitals in different parts of the country and in 2010 was flown off a mountain in Austria when I broke my leg skiing.
The UK hospitals were much of a muchness – multiple-choice menus, ordered the day before by ticking boxes on a card.
South Tyneside District Hospital was different.
Every single meal choice could then be fine-tuned with even more choices – gluten-free, less sugar, bigger portion, choice of vegetables.
A computer would have to be a necessity to generate the kitchen menu sheets, every meal configuration assigned to a name in a bed, in a ward, in a building.
A logistical nightmare, costly, and reportedly very wasteful.
In Austria there were no menus handed out to patients. Breakfast was continental-style, where you could choose from the trolley.
Lunch was wheeled into the main ward corridor in a tall, stainless steel bain-marie and served from there. The choice was given verbally by a nurse.
A fish dish, a meat dish, vegetarian dish, veg of the day and a hot dessert or ice cream were always available.
The hot food was in the same container it was cooked in not long before it arrived in the ward.
The food was hot, fresh and delicious. If there was any left over after serving you were asked if you would like more.
If, by any chance, the meal you preferred had gone, then another main was offered.
Just like an aeroplane, it worked well.
Most people are in hospital for a few days only.
At home they most likely eat what is put in front of them, and in hospital should be no different.
Fussy eaters will maybe miss one meal to be awkward, two at the most, but by the next meal they will be hungry and not fussy at all.
It’s not rocket science, just common sense.
South Tyneside hospital should send the catering boss over to see the set-up in an Austrian hospital.
Get feedback from patients, come home, try it for a month, see how it goes.
It will save millions a year and will result in fresher meals with less waste.