Hospital night shift workers offered ‘nothing healthy or hot’ to eat, finds review

A review has found that night shift workers often rely on vending machines.

Ian Snug
27 October 2020
Vending machine

Hospital kitchens should be open 24 hours a day offering hot food for staff and patients.

A review of hospital catering has found that night shift workers are often the most “ill-served”.

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The report published yesterday by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) revealed that the majority of night shift workers were relying on vending machines “offering nothing healthy and nothing hot”.

British Bake Off star Prue Leith CBE alongside Chair of the Hospital Food Review Philip Shelley have published a set of recommendations for hospitals to ensure food for patients and staff is healthy, nutritious, and delicious.

Ms. Leith and Mr. Shelley concluded their foreword of the report by saying; “a cup of tea willingly served in the middle of the night can do wonders. Food is a form of medicine.”

The report recommends that hospital kitchens should be open 24 hours a day and staff “must have access to appropriate facilities to safely store, prepare and eat their own meals at any time of the day or night”.

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The right tools to do their job.

A recent NursingNotes survey found that nearly half of all nurses regularly were unable to take their breaks due to being short-staffed.

Philip Shelley, chair of the hospital food review, said: “Just as our staff need the right tools to do their job, we also need to ensure that they have the nutrition and hydration they require to perform their crucial roles.

“The wellbeing of our NHS staff is vital because it affects their mental and physical health as well as the quality of care they deliver for patients. A lack of nutritious food and drink can contribute to feelings of stress and lack of control in the workplace.”

Prue Leith CBE, added; “The review provides best-in-class examples of how hospitals can serve delicious, nutritious and nicely presented meals on a budget.

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“Food is not only important to health, but to morale. Hospital mealtimes should be a moment of enjoyment and a pleasure to serve. They should inspire staff, patients and visitors to eat well at home.”

Near impossible.

A Royal College of Nursing spokesperson said: “It should not have taken this length of time to recognise the need for staff to have access to healthy and nutritious food during their shift.

“Ask any member of the nursing staff in a hospital they would tell you that particularly on a night shift being able to get hot food is near impossible.

“Canteens are closed and facilities where they can prepare their own food have been cut.

“They will also say that even if it were available the shortage of staff makes it increasingly difficult to find the time to take a break.

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“Unless there is enough nursing staff those that remain will not even be able to use services proposed by this long-awaited review.”

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