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Report finds that 49 percent of all food in Irish hospitals is not eaten

A recent article published in The Journal states that up to half of the food produced in Irish hospitals is not eaten. The issue was highlighted by Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly who recently asked the HSE about the amount of food wasted or thrown out from hospitals and whether any unused food from hospital kitchens is given away or donated to avoid waste.

The HSE told O’Reilly that research by the National Health Sustainability Office (NHSO) published at the end of last year included 30 detailed food waste surveys of both acute hospitals and community care facilities. The study shows that 37% to 49% of food produced is not eaten. Why? There are 3 main factors.

  1. 27% of wastage is due from extra food being produced. Catering staff typically take orders using paper meal cards. The patient ticks a box and select what they would like to eat. As the kitchen staff have to tally up all the meal cards, the end results are often inaccurate. Meaning that excess food is produced.

  2. Approximately 6% of food is plated but not eaten due to patients being moved, discharged or are undergoing a procedure. As the catering staff have no access to the patient management system (PMS), they have no visibility in relation to the patients location. 

  3. Approximately 23% of all waste occurs because the patient didn’t finish their meals. The main reason for this being that portion size was too big. Other reasons include the food not being suitable for a patients diet type, poor food quality and patients not eating certain foods.

The HSE said the Green Healthcare Programme (GHCP), the initiative which carried out these surveys, has produced detailed advice and guidance to address these issues.The next phase of the GHCP initiative will focus on helping hospitals to implement those guidelines.

Here at Dualtron we have developed a paperless ordering system which aims to combat unnecessary food waste, among other things, which can help to ensure that these guidelines are met. This system is called Serval. Serval uses tablet and cloud based technology to take patients orders more efficiently and effectively than traditional methods. The catering staff identify the patient by entering their surname or date of birth. Once the patient has been identified, they then use the tablet to select their food choices. Serval provides the patient with greater control, allowing the patient to customise their meal to their own preference. They can choose to add extras,manage portion size and remove aspects of the meal also. All of which reduce food wastage.

Serval is also integrated with the hospitals Patient Management System. Which means that when a patient is moved, discharged or is undergoing a procedure, the catering staff will be able to see their status and act accordingly.

Furthermore, the kitchen will be provided with an accurate report of what has to be produced, providing catering managers with a greater overview of production, reducing wastage and improving the means for quality and stock control.It will also allow dieticians to monitor the patients nutrition from any connected device.They can even set particular diets for patients who require them, meaning, patients will only be able to choose from food that match their given diet. All these features not only reduce waste, but, increase patient satisfaction and wellbeing. Serval provides catering staff, doctors and dietitians with the means to make better informed decisions on behalf of the patient.

Here at Dualtron we will continue to work to ensure that every Doctor, catering manager and Dietitian has the means to properly and effectively look after their patients. Serval’s reporting tool helps manage all information pertaining to patients, diets, menus and full patient history is always to hand.


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