New food service will benefit patients

Meals from Dunedin Hospital kitchen. Photos from the ODT files
Meals from Dunedin Hospital kitchen. Photos from the ODT files
The Southern District Health Board food services proposal focused on improved patient care, writes Glenn Corbett, the managing director of Compass Group New Zealand.

Compass Group New Zealand's (Compass NZ) proposed Food Services model for the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) is, at its heart, about improved patient care.

Adoption of the proposal would be an opportunity to enhance the food services provided in the SDHB region while delivering significant cost savings.

We at present provide patient food services and Meals on Wheels to seven of the 20 DHBs in New Zealand.

We have used this experience, with input from DHB kitchen staff, food service managers and dietitians, to develop the proposal.

Quality will not be compromised. Consistency in both food and nutrition quality are key deliverables for Compass NZ, and an audit programme that includes patient satisfaction surveys will constantly measure this.

There will be more menu options for patients, including 25% more choice on breakfast menus and 39% more choice on lunch menus, as well as increased options for snacks, desserts and beverages.

New national Nutrition Standards, developed with DHB dietitians, would be introduced.

Nutritional analysis of meals from existing patient menus at a number of DHBs, including Southern, was undertaken by Dr Heather Spence.

Dr Spence is an independent dietetic and food service management expert who works with many DHBs and supervises post-graduate dietetic students at Otago University.

The nutrient content of current meals was assessed against the proposed nutrition standards for eight different groups, including older adults, paediatric, teenage and adult patients.

Dr Spence's report concluded that adoption of the proposed national nutrition standards would ensure all patients were more consistently provided with meals that met their nutrient needs.

For patients, personalised menu ordering at the bedside by catering assistants would be introduced.

In locations where there are 50 or more patients, including Dunedin, Southland and Wakari Hospitals, electronic tablets with nutritional information and pictures of menu items will be used.

This integrated electronic ordering system allows orders to be placed nearer meal times. Satisfaction is shown to increase, along with food intake, for patients using these systems.

Meals on Wheels recipients will continue to receive a hot meal. These meals will be served from a menu specifically designed for the local community and will meet all food and nutrition quality standards.

The option of ordering additional frozen meals, for customers to enjoy at their convenience, will also be introduced.

The meals are prepared using advanced snap-freezing technology that provides quality advantages over the current process, which uses a mixture of cook-chill and slow freeze.

The latter allows ice crystals to form in the food, which changes its texture and taste.

Consistency in service as well as food quality is important. Every hospital's business continuity plan, and our own, include provision for situations where delivery of essential supplies could be affected, such as road closures.

Compass NZ was responsible for the food services to Canterbury DHB at the time of the earthquakes, and was able to ensure all patient needs were met during this time. The contingency plans developed for SDHB will ensure the right solutions are in place for this region.

The SDHB strategic plan states the intention to introduce better overall health service and, by removing duplication and inefficiencies, allow resources to be redirected into more patient services.

The proposed Food Service changes are projected to deliver savings of $7 to $15 million. An independent report by Mr Pat Snedden, a lifetime member of the Service and Food Workers Union and past chair of other DHBs, confirms these projections are realistic, verifiable and achievable.

A copy of his report is available on the Southern DHB website:

Compass NZ and SDHB, are committed to minimising job losses. We want to retain a skilled hospitality and food service workforce in the region. Compass NZ is already an employer in the region, with 50 fulltime roles and up to 700 casual or temporary positions.

Spending in the Southern region with suppliers is projected to increase.

Compass NZ at present spends more than $3 million annually in the region and this is projected to increase 50% to 100%.

There are likely to be further opportunities for Southern suppliers both for Hospital Food Services and the wider Compass Food Service business.

Successful implementation will require ongoing consultation between all stakeholders to ensure plans consistently meet local needs.

This includes the volunteers who deliver Meals on Wheels, whom we seek to support to the fullest.

It is our intention to provide a food service that will benefit patients, health services and also the wider community.

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