Being responsible for upholding high standards is something that anyone in the food and drink industry will be more than familiar with. But for those in the healthcare industry, these standards can look slightly different for several reasons. Everybody from carers to kitchen staff in a healthcare setting needs to be well-versed in food and drink standards. So to help make sure you know your stuff, we’ve put together this complete guide covering all there is to know about complying with standards in the UK.

What does ‘national standards’ mean in the healthcare industry?

When we talk about the national standard, it refers to the expected way that something should be done across the country. In the healthcare industry, the national standard is the expected benchmark of care provisions that must be hit regardless of who is being cared for and where they are. For healthcare facilities, this includes a huge variety of factors, from catering and staffing to responsiveness and appropriate support for wellbeing.

National standards for healthcare food and drink

Now that you know what we mean by national standards, we can go through what these involve for food and drink within the healthcare industry. Healthcare facilities are expected to meet the following standards as part of their duty to the people under their care.

Standard 1: Appoint a board director

Businesses need to appoint a board director to be responsible for food, including nutrition and safety. They’ll also oversee reporting on compliance with the healthcare food and drink standards as a standing agenda item in meetings with other board members. This can help improve and establish engagement, knowledge and safety, alongside offering assurance that the facility is working towards or complying with the standards.

Standard 2: Create a food and drink strategy

It’s a must for catering businesses in the healthcare industry to have a food and drink strategy which involves a rolling plan for how they’ll improve nutrition and hydration for all residents, staff and visitors to the facility.

Standard 3: Input from a named food service dietician

The level of input from a named food service dietician must be considered to make sure the facility is making appropriate food and drink choices that fit with the standards. The dietician will evaluate how many staff members are needed to oversee food and beverage services for everyone at the healthcare facility. A dietician’s job description and person specification are offered within the standards to help with this.

Standard 4: Nominate a food safety specialist

Healthcare businesses must nominate a food safety specialist to show that they recognise their legal obligations as food business operators. This way, facilities can make sure they’re effectively complying with food safety procedures at all levels without forgetting anything, alongside fulfilling their duty to make sure that supply chains are safe. The standards expect that you’ll have a Responsible Person, a Competent Person, and an Authorised Person with the CEO being kept in the loop.

Standard 5: Invest in a high calibre workforce

Spending time and money investing in a high calibre workforce to improve staffing and ensure the team has the complex knowledge and skills required is crucial for meeting the fifth standard. This shows that your facility recognises the complexities of delivering food and beverage services and that you’re doing something to improve provisions. It’s also important to appropriately remunerate staff at all levels involved in food and drink services. This standard is intended to support food safety, nutritional safety and resident safety while also providing a better working environment. In return, this can boost staff wellbeing, morale, loyalty and retention.

Standard 6: Demonstrate an established training programme

Healthcare facilities are required to demonstrate that a well-defined training plan is being implemented and that they offer a comprehensive learning and development program for all involved in food and beverage services. This is to ensure that staff members are properly trained and can practice safety measures when providing food and drink services. Non-catering staff, such as carers and porters, are also included in this since they’re responsible for handling food and beverages.

Standard 7: Monitor, manage and actively reduce food waste

Healthcare facilities need to monitor, manage and actively reduce their food waste at all stages from production to plating and throwing away unserved food. Understanding where food waste comes from and why it’s important to take steps to minimise wastage is the goal of this standard. By reducing food waste, facilities can support funding for better food provisions for residents, staff and visitors. Figures on food waste will still need to be reported and published, which is why plenty of support is available for this standard.

Standard 8: Demonstrate suitable and appropriate 24/7 food service provisions

Healthcare settings must be able to demonstrate that they offer suitable 24/7 food service provision appropriate for their demographic. This can include everything from retail solutions and smart fridges to staff break areas and hydration stations. The idea is that each setting has appropriate solutions, which should be decided from conversations between staff, procurement and care teams. 

How to Meet Food and Drink Standards

Ensuring that a healthcare facility meets the national standards for food and drink doesn’t need to be complicated or daunting. However, it can be made easier by scheduling regular meetings between experts, leaders, and staff to develop a strategic plan for compliance. By working collaboratively towards this common goal, the facility can ensure that residents receive the highest quality of care when it comes to nutrition. So, with a well-structured plan in place, the facility can stay on top of its food and drink standards while providing a comfortable, healthy and safe environment for residents.

Importance of high food standards in healthcare settings

Why are high food standards so important to maintain within healthcare settings? One of the main reasons for this is that residents need and deserve to be provided with proper levels of nutrition. When providing care for senior residents, keeping food standards higher fulfils your duty to their care.

Another reason that they’re so important is that people in care often suffer from lower immune systems, which means that their food and drink intake needs to be monitored closely. This is covered by the UK standards since this should be included in your plan to cater to the needs of each person under your care.

Good standards also equal better hygiene measures, which means that out-of-date or highly processed foods are automatically a big no-no within healthcare facilities. This protects residents from being exposed to harmful bacteria or foods that could make them unwell.

Finally, higher food standards open the door to more sustainability and less food wastage. The seventh standard makes it clear that this is important, not only for maintaining sustainable practices but also for protecting the planet and keeping costs down.

This guide to food and drink standards in the healthcare industry is here whenever you need a reminder of what your facility should be aiming towards.

For more tips and advice on everything from food standards to the latest legislation affecting caterers, check out our blog.