Antrim Area Hospital Catering Team: how tag based searches can lead to service improvement

Update from Care Opinion

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If you've stayed in hospital yourself you'll know that the meals and the cleanliness of the ward make a huge difference to the overall experience of care. Patients often leave valuable feedback about the food and meals they've been given when in hospital. But their stories are sent through to wards and departments throughout the hospital. If you are a manager heading up catering services how would you go about using Care Opinion to learn what patients think about the meals you are providing?

David Smyth is Catering Production Manager at Antrim Area Hospital in Northern Health & Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland. His team are passionate about providing the best food they can to patients in the hospital: 

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The Catering Team have won awards for the service they provide, including the Northern Star and We Love British Food award, for providing free meals through the COVID pandemic. But David and his team aren't resting on their laurels. They want to find out what patients really think about their food. And they want to make improvements and reduce food wastage. 

Before using Care Opinion David had no real way of finding out what people thought about their meals. If a patient made a complaint it would be dealt with but there would be no way of following up. And if patients sent a thank you card to the ward it was very unlikely that any comments about their meals would get back to the catering team.

David recognises how valuable feedback on Care opinion is because it's independent and each story is a jigsaw piece in the overall picture of how the catering service is doing.

What makes it possible to keep track of all the stories mentioning food in Antrim Hospital?

Like everything in Care Opinion, the answer is a great combination of people and technology - Humanity and Innovation - two of our core values. Our dedicated team of Care Opinion moderators make use of a key feature of our site - the story tagging function.

Because all CO stories are moderated by real people not AI, we read every word before it's published on the site. We're checking it's safe to publish, anonymous etc. And we're also making sure that the key things the author is saying don't get missed. Our moderators add tags to the story such as "food" whenever an author mentions a meal

These tags enable David to search for all stories in a particular service, in this case Antrim Area Hospital, which have the tag "food" added to them

David is confident he hears about all the catering stories. He receives a tag based alert every time a story is published that fits his search criteria (Antrim Hospital + "food"). He doesn't need to rely on busy ward staff remembering to forward him feedback.

Closing the loop

Care Opinion is all about the conversation between the service user and the service. David is very keen to let patients and staff know what people think of the meals his service is providing. Example pieces of feedback - positive and more critical - are displayed on noticeboards in the hospital.

These boards demonstrate to patients that their feedback is really valued and being listened to.


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And more than that, patient stories are being used to make changes. The catering teams are aiming to reduce food wastage throughout the hospital, and are listening carefully to what patients say about portion size and choices available to them. The stories are also making a real difference to staff reading the noticeboards, who hear how much their work is appreciated: 

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So what's next? 

David's team are part of a bigger project throughout Antrim Area Hospital. They're working alongside all Corporate Support Services, including catering, car-parking, security, domestic services - all the aspects of being in hospital that make such a difference to how comfortable and safe patients feel. They aim to gain a better understanding of how patients experience their stay - what they appreciate, and what changes they want to see happen. By making use of our tag based searches and alerts these services will be able to gain a picture of the impact of their work throughout the Antrim Area Hospital.


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