A new electronic food ordering system will be “fully embedded” at Blackpool Victoria Hospital by September, bosses there said.
The new arrangement has been trialled over the past 18 months in a bid to cut down the amount of food being wasted, with 464kg going in the bin over a seven-day period last March.
Yvonne Widdows, the hospital’s senior site service manager, said that equated to “only seven meals a day wasted out of more than 2,500 meals” – with that figure now down to around five.
She said the new electronic system would also “ensure all patient menus have a full nutritional analysis”, and lead to better care.
In 2017, The Gazette revealed how 49,200 dishes were returned uneaten the year before, an average of almost 135 per day.
It costs around £8 a day to feed each patient, which left hospital bosses with a huge bill for untouched food at a time the cash-strapped NHS is struggling to make ends meet.
One Vic nurse, who has since left, said at the time: “We are feeding the patients who were in the ward the night before. If they are still there they get the meal.
“Really the ward staff should be calling the kichen [if they need to cancel a meal], but it’s not done on computer, it’s done the night before with menus.
“If you had it on a computer system, you could hit a button and the patient would not get a meal, but we don’t have that here.”
Most wards were ordering the following day’s meals the night before, a hospital spokeswoman said, though some were ordering in the morning.
The new computer system has several benefits, Ms Widdows said, including picture menus to help dementia patients choose a meal, full nutritional information, and allowing patients admitted late to order a dish.
It will also “reduce wastage within the kitchen, due to controlled production, and reduce over-ordering at ward level”, she added.
Reducing waste is part of the government’s long-term plan for the NHS, with more than 7,130 tonnes going in the bin nationally ever year. The food and farming charity Soil Association described that as a “big problem”.
Maisie Borrows, research manager at the Reform think tank, said: “All NHS hospitals should strive to be as efficient as the ‘best-in-class’, looking at improving efficiency by harnessing technology and insight from data.”