Increasing scrutiny, not least of all from CQC inspectors, is challenging care homes to raise standards for the food and drink provided in care homes. Training of catering staff is vital to ensure that residents receive tasty and nutritious meals that they are able and happy to eat, says Jill Whittaker, managing director of Conntect2Care, a leading training and apprenticeship provider to the care sector. Here, Jill Whittaker gives her advice on how care homes can profit from providing better food and beverages from a well-trained and motivated workforce…
Just a few years ago, budget was the driver for most care home’s food offering. This focus on containing costs often meant that fast food, as opposed to healthy and nutritious food, dominated menus.
Budgets are obviously still of paramount importance but attitudes have changed and the emphasis today has shifted sharply to nutritional content, with research suggesting over one million older people in the UK are at risk of malnutrition. Care home operators have to provide food for patients with specialist dietary or nutritional requirements, those with dysphagia for example. And alongside these nutritional imperatives there is the need for good hydration, essential for everyone but especially so for the vulnerable and elderly.
Delivering appropriate meals requires a highly skilled catering workforce, which needs constant training to ensure their skills are up-to-date.
Well-trained competent staff are a valuable asset and can help to improve performance by delivering a combination of better patient care plus a knock-on benefit of stronger overall performance through greater efficiency; not to mention positive side-effects such as increased patient satisfaction, and a valued work force with reduced staff turnover.
In order to achieve these benefits, operators may need to consider investing in staff training to ensure that the catering team is well equipped in areas such as nutrition, allergens and flavour profiles; skills that can really add value in a care home kitchen.
Providing training in specialist areas such as these is by no means straightforward and is something that requires a large investment of time. As there is already a skills shortage within the care industry, operators often struggle to find the time to run training programmes in addition to their daily tasks. This is where working with external training providers can be beneficial.
Outside training providers can take an objective view and offer a greater breadth of experience, having worked with many different companies and witnessed other ways of working. In-house staff that provide training may benefit from knowing the business inside out, but they won’t necessarily have the tools or expertise needed to guarantee that their team is receiving the best training that will not only enhance their skills, but also help to improve the nutritional standards of a catering offering.
Of course, it’s not only about chefs – there are a range of courses offering training opportunities from care managers to cleaning staff. This isn’t only about attracting new staff, care home operators should also offer these courses to their current staff and build on their existing skill set. Investment in staff opens doors to new opportunities.
Within the care home sector there is no doubt that the provision of better, healthier and more nutritious food, suitable for all dietary needs, is no longer an optional extra. It must be an integral part of every organisation’s offering and is essential to the dignity, wellbeing and even life of those affected. Nutrition and Hydration Week seems a most appropriate time to reiterate this and to encourage employers to revaluate their offering and ensure that they are embracing change.
For more information on Connect2Care, please visit: www.connect2care.net