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Hospital food at Darent Valley in Dartford to get an upgrade with fresh look canteen and ordering app in the works

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Hospital food is not often renowned for having a good reputation but all that could be about to change at one NHS trust.

Dining on the wards at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford is set for a health kick and overhaul as part of a new five -year contract.

The restaurant and catering facilities are set for an overhaul at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford
The restaurant and catering facilities are set for an overhaul at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford

Medirest, the NHS facing healthcare division of food service business Compass Group UK & Ireland, has teamed up with Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust to bring streamlined services and innovations to the provider's healthcare facilities.

A new deal has been struck to fulfil support services such as catering, cleaning, portering, security and reception – with 300 colleagues transferring to the group.

It means patients will now have access to food provided by Steamplicity, Medirest's unique patient dining solution, alongside new meal ordering technology.

Created by chefs and dietitians, the meals are steam cooked with fresh and raw ingredients in under five minutes and served on the wards.

The new menu provides almost 30 dishes across lunch and dinner, catering for a range of dietary requirements.

A nurse serving a meal to a patient. Photo: Think Stock
A nurse serving a meal to a patient. Photo: Think Stock

Around 35% of the options are vegetarian and vegan and the group uses a closed loop recycling system for the tray packaging as part of the group's drive towards climate net zero commitments.

In addition to a menu upgrade the hospital’s restaurant will also receive a facelift to create areas for people to relax, refresh and enjoy food and drinks.

A Wellspring restaurant will be introduced, with purpose designed pods for informal meetings, an ordering app and digital screens to improve queuing times.

There will also be a commitment to supporting local suppliers, such as the Paul Rhodes Bakery, Change Please Coffee, Solley’s Ice Cream and Kent crisps, as well as a bi-monthly street food event, featuring local suppliers.

Last year the government set out its blueprint for improving hospital food in response to an independent led review.

It found high-quality hospital food can improve staff wellbeing and speed up patient recovery.

Hospital food is set for an upgrade under new government plans
Hospital food is set for an upgrade under new government plans

While 58% of patients rate hospital grub as very good or good, 39% of hospital staff feel that food and catering facilities offered in their workplaces were poor, according to a most recent NHS England staff survey.

Tech innovation also form part of Trust's new deal which will see new AI tools rolled out to improve patient flow.

This groundbreaking technology uses a geo-location system for mapping and allocating work, tracking where jobs need completing, setting up deployment and automatically updating the portering team and the hospital department requesting the job.

There will also be a new cleaning, vacuum robot to focus on touch point and cross infection hot spots.

Steve Cenci, managing director at Compass Group UK & Ireland – Healthcare, said “This partnership brings to life synergies and introduces innovation where needed in areas that are important to Darent Valley Hospital and Medirest.

"This practical appliance of technology will enhance the experience for anyone needing to visit the hospital. We have a comprehensive plan in place, and we can’t wait to implement it.”

Carolyn Lewis, director of estates, facilities and capital at Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust said: “We would like to thank the support teams for all of their commitment and dedication, particularly during the most challenging times of the pandemic.

"We are looking forward to continuing to work alongside our colleagues as they transfer over to Medirest.

"This is a very exciting time for the Trust and the enhanced services promise to be both groundbreaking and outstanding.

"We are excited about all the innovative solutions which will be introduced as a result of the change.”

Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, who deliver some services from the Darent Valley Hospital site, will also benefit from this latest partnership.

In May 2020 Medirest announced it will pay healthcare frontline employees, who support the NHS, the equivalent NHS agenda for change rates of basic pay.

It means an uplift in pay for some colleagues under the new Darent Valley contract.

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