Reflections on AOM2013 Blog Project

Looking back over I am pleased with the short updates that built up to provide one big picture of my overall stay at hospital.

I tried to keep the updates short and light-hearted to avoid it being a moan and for it to remain reflective.

I used tools such as Instagram and tagged the location as ‘Southampton Hospital’ which saw click-throughs and sharing of the hospital food pictures there as well. I also sent all of my posts out to a twitter @DoctorFeedMe as well as my personal social networks to encourage views and clicks. This was also a good place to gauge how effective the blog was. Here are some of the comments I received:

Rebecca Elizabeth Smith good job!! hospital food is so s***! the pic of the spag bol – like, wow! well done!
Kirill Nad You’ll be pleased to hear, it doesn’t look far off the food forced on me in a private hospital shortly after having wisdom teeth pulled out under general. Lucky my mouth was so numb everything just kept falling back out onto the tray, bedding and generally all over the room
Overall the site received 806 views, with days that had posts published on them varying between 22 & 114. I used the content management system and set up a domain on my hosting. I used plugins such as Simply Instagram, to pull in my pictures from there in real-time, ‘Sticky Social Bar’ to encourage sharing which follows the reader’s screen on the left hand side and the powerful ‘Jetpack’ tool which provides the site with stats, uses Photon to load images from the to speed up load time and allows for subscriptions by email among other features. Jetpack can also provide a mobile version of the site, however I did not need this feature as I had looked for a responsive theme so it would available on any device when I set up the blog. In the end I used the free theme Live Wire.
Screen shot 2013-05-18 at 1.49.13 PMI hope that the variety of styles of posts helped to spread out and tell the story in a more interesting way. I used galleries, single picture posts and a video to pick up on different concepts. The video was inspired by the concept of how easy I knew it could be to make some good food, especially as towards the end of the blog the food improved – but only because I was picking it up from the chef myself. I felt that a video was the best way to see this A to B style of story arc, especially as the blog had been mainly static with text and pictures so far. I used the style of Thomas Rees Kaye’s YouTube channel which successfully mixes spoof, quick cuts and longer talking pieces to create medium length YouTube videos, his normally last 6-10 minutes. The reason Thomas’s style worked for this video was because it needed to sustain interest between the more boring parts of the video like the facts and promo’s for the website – The humor and music helped carry the narrative along and keep the viewer watching rather than just skipping to the end for the final product.
My largest disappointment was being unable to get someone from inside the ‘system’ to openly talk to me about hospital food. I spoke to several dietitians and bowel clinical leads and many were pleased a patient was going to try to tackle and expose the issue of poor food. However when asked for statements, help and comment all shied away behind their job and said they were restricted by their contracts and pressure from bosses to not speak out. My criticism from this doesn’t go towards the staff, although it would have been nice to see doctors standing up for their patients in the public domain, but instead towards the system itself which clearly prevents and gags critique. This could be a large part of the reason why hospital food has been bad, and remains so awful, for so log.

Can I cook More with Less?

Following on from my three week Hospital food blog which detailed some of the not so lovely meals delivered to me (Often cold) on my specially created Intestinal Failure Diet … I decided to cook my own meal in a kitchen at least 8 times smaller than the diet kitchen at Southampton General Hospital. Lets see how well I get on…
Submit your own Hospital Food Experiences too here!

Hot Stuff, Baby Tonight

So we’re nearly at the end of my 3 week stay in hosptial. And its fair to say the food has drastically improved – But only when I go to the Kitchen to pick it up myself. And its not been without problems.

At one point I was served a Spaghetti Bolognaise that taste just fine, but the Spaghetti was in a slab. So I went back to the kitchen and asked the chef if he could do me some more. He more than obliged infact, he invited me into the kitchen to discuss my dietry needs. I even taught him the trick of rinsing pasta and rice after cooking to remove the bad sticky starch – A Revelation to him (Which I thought was a given on the back of all of all Pasta & Rice backs, but apperently not).

Interestingly the ‘diet’ kitchen wasnt massively large but catered for 100 patients. So its clear the diet chef was a busy bee, but the fact he had time to re-make food when it wasn’t good enough shows there is no reason to rush.

But Lunch time still hasn’t improved. Literally On the ward the food is awful, when I pick it up from the kitchen and come face to face with the chef the food is more than average at times enjoyable would you believe it. The choice from the staff canteen which changes everyday is refreshing too.

Before I “leave” I’ll let you know what arrangements I get put in place so other patients can ‘potentially’ benefit and explore how easy it is to cook a decent meal with less equipment than the industrial ‘diet’ kitchen. Keep an eye on! And if you have an experience: Submit it!

And then there was the Bonus Mash Potato

So its just over a week and a half in a stuffy, uncomfortable hospital ward. But thankfully, I’m feeling well enough to walk about and escape the ward. Unfortunately this minor relief doesn’t quite make the food situation any better. I’ve made the same complaint about the food, quite angrily nearly every day for the last week and a half, but I’ve been particularly persistent the last three days. Then I receive this:

2013-01-19 13.04.172013-01-19 13.02.26Yum, literally last nights left over pasta (I recognize from seeing in the staff canteen the previous night) & spaghetti hoops with what I can only presume was bonus mash potato.


So I reach my limit. There simply MUST be something they can do, or offer me thats better than this? No they keep saying. This is it. There are only so many times you can say the same thing to the dietician and ward staff.

But I know there are other options. On my casual strolls around Southampton General I find the Spice of Life staff and visitor canteen. Its owned by the same company, medirest, and yes they serve steamplicity food. However, they also serve food hot. And the canteen, shares their kitchen space with the ‘Diet Bay’ where my IFD[foot]Intestinal Failure Diet[/foot] menu is cooked.

So far the defence for my food being cold is, its brought up straight away. We can’t bring it up any faster – thats why its cold. (As if this is ok?) So I decide to take the initiative and as the old saying goes. If the Hot Potato won’t come to Jamie, Jamie will go to the Hot Potato. I arrange to go and pick my meals up from the kitchen – and remove the transport element. If they cant get hot food to me, i’ll just go pick up the hot food.

See just how drastically this improves my food when I pick up my first evening meal directly from the chefs hands tomorrow.

Dog Food Pie

Food. Sustenance. Energy. Probably the most important elements driving any potential recovery you can make. So being fed something you can eat that fits the strict diet set by the powers that be; Hospital should be the one place the gets this spot on, right?

Wrong – Hospital food is and always has been notouriously awful. Countless commitees, celebrity chefs and goverenment ministers have tried to implement measures to fix it. To No Avail. At this point I present you with Exhibit A:

2013-01-05 18.21.07

Its supposed to be a Shepards Pie, but the essentially ‘jellied’ like meat reminds me more of what a Dog Food Pie would look like. This is by no means the worst thing i’ve been served whilst trying to recover in hospital; But this is the meal that took my anger levels to a point enough of wanting to something about it. Having complained before and seeing little improvement, rather than relying on the Kitchen team to take pictures and share it with the Hospital heads of catering – I decided to take a picture of every meal I was served.

To be fair this picture doesn’t do the meal justice. It was also cold, the mash potatoes were soggy, and see those massive clumps of red? Those are barely cooked tomatoes. I can assure you, for someone on a Intestinal Failure Menu, from which this was ordered from, big – high residue – acidic – cheap tomatoes are not only un-enjoyable at the point of eating. But for hours and hours after.

I was in Hospital for a mere 3 weeks. And over the next 3 weeks I’ll be sharing more and more of the delicacies delivered to my hospital bedside, what protests I made and whether I ever did, get them to Feed Me Something Decent!

Follow the updates on Twitter & Instagram (Both are @DoctorFeedMe) and submit your own Hospital food stories and pictures here

The History

Southampton Hospital

In and out of Hospital for nearly 3 years and had some pretty serious surgery over the time. Born with a 1 in a million anomaly that allowed my bowel to twist leading to much of it being taken away and a few days being lost to operations and general anesthetics.

With 7 major operations, somewhere under 30 minor ops, and enough radiation from scans to cook a ready meal (or two) under my belt before the age of 21, its been a bit rough. The worst bit? Not eating for a year and a half! I relied on intravenous[foot]Intravenous therapy or IV therapy is the infusion of liquid substances directly into a vein. The word intravenous simply means “within a vein“. – Wikipedia[/foot] parenteral nutrition [foot] Parenteral nutrition (PN) is feeding a person intravenously, bypassing the usual process of eating and digestion. The person receives nutritional formulae that contain nutrients such as glucose, amino acids, lipids and added vitamins and dietary minerals. It is called total parenteral nutrition (TPN) or total nutrient admixture (TNA) when no significant nutrition is obtained by other routes – Wikipedia [/foot] for the best part of a year and a half and was not able to absorb food or drink. During that time the only way to get in touch with food, was to cook: I did this for my family every meal time, that I had the energy to do so, so that when I could eat again I could eat well.

Southampton HospitalAs I’m sure you’re already aware, Hospital food is more Michelin wheels than stars in style, and that’s Michelin wheels that have a massive puncture. Now its not all bad – the first meal I had, Chicken with white rice and white sauce tasted just fine. But, anything is going to taste good after nothing for a year and a half. The problems I’ll refer to in this blog centre largely around my most recent hospital stay at Southampton General University Hospital – A hospital I was sent to (away from my home town) for its specialist Nutrition team and capabilities. And let us be clear, the Doctors and my team looking after me have been Fab! Its the food I have the BEEF with – If you’ll pardon the pun.

My most recent stay I was on the Intestinal Failure Diet, created especially for people like me, whose intestines have failed. And for the record, not just a little bit, you could say #EpicFails to coin a twitter term. Hopefully this blog will encourage the ongoing, but largely under the radar, discourse on how poor hospital food is to come into the LIME light. If you have experiences similar or at the completely the other end of the spectrum, why not share them? – Submit pictures and articles of your experiences anytime below. We’re not just looking for food at Southampton either, anywhere in the NHS is appropriate – Southampton is not the only place with problems with their meals.
Submit your experiences to be published on the blog: