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Nutrition and Hydration Week


It is Nutrition and Hydration Week this week - we caught up with Maxine Cartz, Healthcare Dietitian. 

Nutrition and Hydration Week has taken place every March since 2012. Its purpose is to bring people together to create energy, focus and fun - to highlight and educate people on the value of food and drink in maintaining health and well-being in health and social care.

It’s an important week within our organisation and the healthcare landscape in general, because it highlights the importance of good nutrition and hydration and provides a platform to raise awareness further.

This year, many of our hospitals will be participating and our teams will be supporting local events including afternoon teas, education displays and sharing information.

For multiple reasons patients in hospital often struggle to meet their requirements for food and fluid, which is of course a really important factor in supporting their health outcomes. We believe in a partnership approach to nutrition and hydration and at the heart of this is understanding the patients’ needs and creating solutions that work for them.

We know that hydration is an issue for many being treated in hospitals and care homes, but it’s also imperative for those working and visiting these environments too and for day-to-day wellbeing. Alongside clinical staff, we need to be working to emphasise the benefits of good hydration and support with training around its importance - all members of the multidisciplinary team have a part to play. Something often forgotten is the need to drink regularly and remember too that if you are more active or during hot weather spells, our bodies need more fluid to stay well hydrated.

It’s little things that can often make a big difference to a patient’s good hydration. We recommend simple steps such as water stations providing chilled still or sparkling water; water jugs at hospital bedside tables, ideally being refreshed at least twice a day; providing mugs instead of cups (which are generally larger to encourage more fluid intake) and regular hot beverage rounds with a good range of options.

As caterers we need to encourage food and liquid intake by looking at aspects of service such as flexibility around meal patterns; attractive and easy to understand copies of the menus which should include signposting nutritionally vulnerable patients to the most appropriate choices; and ordering meals closer to when food is being served. These will all help patients get food they actually want to eat. Following the principles of the Hospital Caterers Association’s “Last Nine Yards” initiative will also improve the likelihood of food being eaten and enjoyed and we train our people in line with this guidance. Food has so many important benefits and the recognition of this continues to grow.

The approach to catering for hospital patients is complex, but we all know that a balanced diet and good hydration can impact patient outcomes and care. So, now more than ever seems like the time to put more emphasis on the work we and others across our hospitals do to cater for patients.

Obviously, this is just one week and the work we do in hospitals is 52 weeks a year, 24 hours a day. I hope this week offers a moment in time to reflect again on the importance of good food and fluid intake for us all, but especially the patients we care for in a healthcare setting.

Maxine Cartz