Healthier hospital food on the way

Minister has nothing against chips, but thinks there should be salad on the menu too

Soggy chips, rubber eggs and other staples of hospital food could soon be a thing of the past if Minister for Health Leo Varadkar gets his way.

Mr Varadkar will today tell the bosses of the State’s 50 hospitals he wants higher standards and wider choice in the food they serve to thousands of patients every day.

“The Minister has nothing against chips, he just thinks there should be salad there too on the menu,” his spokesman said.

The UK government has cracked down on unhealthy food in hospitals by promising to introduce mandatory standards and ranking hospitals for the quality of the meals they serve. Hospitals will have to provide fruit and other healthy options and cut down on salt content, or face fines.

Last year, the Coombe maternity hospital introduced healthier options after it emerged patients were being served sausage rolls and potato wedges.

Appointment slots

As well as declaring war on bad food, Mr Varadkar wants hospitals to do more to ensure patients are seen as near as possible to the time of their appointment. “There should be proper appointment slots, and patients should be able to expect they will be seen at about the time they’re given,” the spokesman said.

Today’s meeting at Farmleigh between the Minister and the chief executives of the State and voluntary hospitals is one of a series of consultation meetings Mr Varadkar is having with health service stakeholders.

Although the meeting is designed as a listening exercise, Mr Varadkar will also be telling the hospital bosses he wants a more explicit patient-oriented service culture from them to meet the safety expectations of people using the hospitals.

He will also call on the hospitals to do more day surgeries in order to free up beds and reduce waiting times.

Last month, the Comptroller and Auditor General called for more patients undergoing surgery to be sent home from hospital on the same day the procedure is carried out. The report said day surgery, which is 60 per cent cheaper than inpatient treatment, should be the default option for many common elective treatments.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times