Hospital launches project to improve mealtimes for patients
Doctors at Southampton General Hospital are the first in the UK to test whether or not volunteer mealtime assistants help patients stay well nourished on the wards.
The research, led by the nutrition, diet and lifestyle biomedical research unit and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), sees groups of four to five volunteers help at lunch and dinner on the wards supported by therapists, dietitians and research nurses.
The assistants encourage patients on the medicine for older people unit to eat and drink, help cut up their food and ensure they have the right cutlery available.
And, although joining as part of the voluntary services team at UHS, they receive specific training from the speech and language therapy and dietetics teams to help them with communication and nutritional skills.
Dr Helen Roberts, a consultant in geriatric medicine and the project lead, said: “To date, no-one has evaluated mealtime assistance in terms of feasibility of recruiting and retaining volunteers and whether it is an effective and efficient initiative in increasing the nutritional intake of older people.
“This is a very exciting and positive project which may well change the face of mealtimes in hospital for older people across the UK and we look forward to assessing the impact it has on our patients’ wellbeing.”
The study is one of a number of initiatives introduced at UHS over the last two years to improve standards at mealtimes, including the pilot of a clinical mealtime coordinator role.
The role, currently being rolled out across the Trust, sees a member of the nursing team wear a green tabard for an hour to signal they must not be disturbed and are on hand to help any patients with difficulties or who require additional support.