Staff could have a further 60 minutes a day to spend with patients thanks to new meal ordering system

A 12 month pilot eMeals project on a 31 bedded ward at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) has shown positive results. Staff on the ward at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) site can now order inpatient meals using tablet computers on the same day rather than having to fill in a paper form and taking it to catering staff a day in advance. The old process could take ward staff up to one hour 30 minutes to complete.

Not only do the staff on the ward have more time to spend on patient care, the tablets have significantly reduced food wastage, which is a reflection of the Trust’s commitment to become more eco-friendly and efficient.

A staggering 22,630 meals have been ordered on the trial ward using the new system since it started.

Staff feedback has shaped the design of the app, including having clear deadlines for ordering meals and the ability to order items such as custard separately.

Following the trial, the new system has been rolled out across most inpatient wards at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary this month, with the focus then moving to Furness General Hospital.

Lisa Winn, Ward Manager for the RLI’s Lancaster Suite, said: “The project has provided a fantastic opportunity to work more closely with other departments, helping provide a highly efficient service, putting the patient at the forefront while creating measurable cost savings at a time when the NHS is recognised as being most vulnerable.

“The project is continuously evolving and has enabled us to highlight other areas where the system can be developed in the future to improve nursing and catering services. It has received positive feedback and is a welcomed asset to the Trust.”

The new ordering system allows meals to ‘follow the patient’ should they be transferred to another ward, as well as providing for swift cancellations if they are discharged.

If a patient is discharged out of hours, a take home food bag is made available. These bags ensure patients will be able to have food and a hot drink once they arrive home.

Jackie O’ Brien, Catering Manager, UHMBT, said: “The new system will mean catering supervisors’ time will be saved as they will no longer have to count meal numbers. The new system does this automatically for them. So they have more time to better provide the services that focus on patient improvements.

“The trial wards wastage on food has decreased by over 50% through the 12 month trial period with 944 less meals being wasted. The project team are hopeful this will be repeated on other wards as the project is rolled out across the sites.

“The trial has also shown a reduction in the cost of printing patient menu’s and a reduction in waste paper generated from the Catering Department. Accuracy of meals ordered for each individual is significantly improved, with the meal following the patient through the Hospital if they move wards.”

Patient Graham Winnkitchen, of Lancaster, said: “The system is fantastic. I have no complaints. The meals are delicious.”

The eMeals project started as a Listening into Action (LiA) scheme. The Trust launched LiA in September 2014 to put the power back into the hands of Trust staff who lead on the improvements that they think the Trust should make for patients and staff.

Listening into Action has been developed by Optimise Limited and has been adopted by over 70 trusts since 2010. UHMBT is a licenced LiA trust.

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