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Helen Ream tells us about the Care Home Digest


This week, the Food Services Specialist Group and Older People Specialist Group of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) launched the Care Home Digest, in collaboration with the National Association of Care Catering (NACC).

Leading on this work has been Helen Ream, Healthcare and Food Service Dietitian at Compass Group UK & Ireland in her role as Vice-Chair of the BDA’s Food Services Specialist Group. She tells us about the Digest and why it’s important.

This is a really significant step forward for the Care sector.

There has been a Nutrition & Hydration Digest for hospital food since 2012, with updated editions being published every few years. This Digest for hospitals is a set of guiding principles, that is now part of the National Standards for Food and Drink in Healthcare and I believe it has helped to offer guidance and standards for hospital catering – enhancing progress.

The Care Home Digest is the first of its kind, providing menu planning and food service guidelines to support care homes, to provide high quality food and drink services for residents.

Chapters in the Digest include nutrition and hydration needs, delivering a positive mealtime experience, menu planning and design and catering for special diets. The Digest covers the importance of choice in terms of what residents are eating and their portion size and how homes can work to review and enhance meal services. It’s really important that we acknowledge there are varying standards and services being offered and there is not a one size fits all approach – it must be tailored to each home and their residents.

We all know that the overall food and dining experience can have a huge impact on quality of life for residents in care homes and is often one of the highlights of the daily routine. Malnutrition, dehydration and other nutrition related health concerns, which often impact those living in care homes, also means that providing appropriate and appetising meals that meet nutritional requirements can be more challenging.

With many care homes unable to access a food service dietitian service, the Care Home Digest allows homes to access the information to support them to plan nutritionally balanced and appropriate menus to meet both the nutritional needs and preferences of their residents.

Having worked as a dietitian for 30 years including 20 years with the NHS, I believe that having a clear set of standards and guidelines will create better consistency and clarity in the approach for eating and drinking in care homes. Managers, nurses, care staff and caterers will better understand what they should be providing as part of their overall food service and this has to be a good thing for the residents we are looking after.

I am so pleased to see this important piece of work launched. It provides expert knowledge and support for professionals working in the sector. Food has so many important benefits and the recognition of this continues to grow. I am very proud to be part of the working group and to shine a light on this important issue.

You can read the online version here – Care Home Digest - British Dietetic Association (BDA)

Helen Ream at the Care Home Digest launch event