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Hospital food crusade of TV chef James Martin
The Ryedale-born Saturday Kitchen host said his new documentary series was motivated by the “appalling” fare served to his grandmother 12 years ago at the Wigginton Road site.
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, he said his grandmother Marjorie had hugely influenced his desire to become a chef, but she became ill just as he was becoming well-known.
She was admitted to York Hospital, where she spent four months before she passed away.
Mr Martin said: “I used to drive 200 miles to visit her there as often as possible and I was shocked by what I saw. It was hard to see someone I loved so much apparently wasting away.
“For someone who’d loved her cakes, her butter and her bacon sandwiches so much, it was heartbreaking. They would bring her mashed potato and meat pies and tarts that were not just appalling but also chewy and tough. Elderly patients who can’t swallow just want a bit of soup and ice-cream, because that’s all they can manage.”
He said the experience was “traumatic” but had a profound effect on him. His new Operation Hospital Food aims to revolutionise standards in hospitals and will be screened next month.
Filming has already taken place in Scarborough Hospital, where there is a budget of only £3.49 per patient per day for food, and Mr Martin has managed to encourage staff to prepare more of their own dishes.
Libby McManus, chief nurse at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said patients gave good feedback after eating at the hospital and said that in a recent inspection, the quality of food was given a rating of excellent.
She said: “We know how important nutrition is in helping patients recover as quickly as possible, and that malnutrition can cause or contribute to health problems, particularly among the elderly.
We have protected mealtimes so that patients can eat without interruption, giving them the best chance of getting the nutrition they need.
“Twelve years is a long time ago and whilst I can’t comment on what the food was like then, it clearly has motivated James, which I hope will benefit us all.”
The celebrity chef made it clear that the food was not the cause of his granmother’s death, which happened 12 years ago.
Operation Hospital Food, a five-part series, begins on BBC1 at 9.15am from Monday.
He said he believed his grandmother would be proud of him, adding: “It feels like a fitting tribute to the incredible woman who provided me with such inspiration.”
James gets NHS out of a pickle
HOSPITAL food, like mothers-in-law, has always been a staple diet for comedians. But for those eating unappetising fare, especially when they don’t feel at their best, it’s no joke at all.
And that’s something James Martin wants to change. In a new series for BBC TV, the celebrity chef will show hospital cooks how to make every penny count, but still provide wholesome meals.
He was reportedly inspired to produce the programmes after seeing his grandmother presented in hospital with food he felt was tough to chew and hard to swallow.
Now he has vowed to remedy the situation and says at Scarborough Hospital he has produced a model for others to follow, despite discovering the true extent of the problem.
Chefs there have less than £3.50 per patient per day to produce three meals, drinks and biscuits, so it’s a wonder they come up with anything at all.
While nobody is saying hard-pressed NHS funds should be taken from frontline care, surely managers must acknowledge that part of a successful outcome for any patient is a nutritious and enticing diet during their stay.
There is non-clinical cash available to do this and it’s their responsibility to fight for it.
In the meantime, we hope James Martin, with all his ingenuity and experience, will help hospital chefs come up with more nourishing fare, even on their meagre budget.
We’ve all witnessed hospital food; let’s just hope he has come up with a menu to wipe the smile off a comedian’s face.