With the healthcare sector rushed off its feet, it isn’t just PPE and social distancing that needs to be considered. There are a number of changes being made to food safety regulations, including the way in which food is prepared, delivered and eaten within residential care homes and nursing homes.
Victoria Biddle, Senior Environmental Health Consultant at Navitas Safety, a single destination for safety within a number of key industries, explains the impact this has had on residential care homes and the changes we can expect to see in the not-too-distant future.
In a pre-COVID world, many care homes and nursing homes gave residents the choice of where they’d like to eat their meals, with the majority opting for sit-down, family-style mealtimes. Residents would often come together to eat in a communal area, providing them with much-needed social interaction, too.
However, the current coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed that. And with current figures showing that around a third of all fatalities from the pandemic were care home residents, it is proof that it will take a while for normality to resume, even once restrictions are eased.
Combining the coronavirus pandemic with the effects of Brexit, this has put a strain on suppliers around the country. Because of this, catering providers have faced a number of difficulties getting a hold of items specific to their menus.
And in a care home setting, this can create issues as different suppliers will have varying ingredients and standards. Therefore, allergens and ingredients can differ and may be present when using alternative suppliers, which aren’t usually. Businesses within the healthcare sector can’t presume that it will be a like for like swap, and in fact, even more thought, care and consideration should be put into such actions.
When using new, alternate suppliers, it is vital for businesses to conduct efficient safety checks to ensure that the correct standards are in place in order to prevent potential risk.
Updating an allergen matrix in line with any menu or supplier changes, is a great way for businesses and care homes to ensure allergen controls. Care homes should have a record which details the allergens and needs of residents, and should ensure that they regularly refer to this and by utilising technology, this can make the process much more secure and efficient.
As well as this, when it comes to allergens, it is important for businesses and care homes to prevent any risk of cross contamination. They can do so by using separate cooking tools and ensuring that a thorough cleaning procedure is strictly followed.
And although care home residents will be relying on safe and nutritious foods, it is important for businesses to conduct thorough background checks when enlisting the help and services of new suppliers, rather than simply assuming they are both legitimate and of high standards.
Even before the pandemic, there was a large portion of people living as high risk, and for a number of reasons. Now, this is even more poignant, as these people are becoming more vulnerable, making the likes of food safety even more important within the healthcare sector.
Due to the effects of the ongoing pandemic, typically, businesses and healthcare sectors are relying on services and support from people who may not be professional chefs. Whilst external caterers are completely qualified, they may become more of a risk to residents due to the nature of their job and working for more than one company at a time.
However, if caterers or chefs are living full-time with the residents due to COVID-19, they may not be entirely trained on food safety standards. And having a digital system will help staff to ensure all cooking and cleaning procedures are followed without fail, protecting both staff, residents and future visitors.
The pandemic has seen a surge in digital assistance, so to help and support the current regulations, we expect to see a rise in technological aids. A digitalised online ordering system would provide chefs with the detailed allergen and dietary information of each resident, making the process of preparing and delivering food much more efficient.
With food playing such an integral role within the healthcare sector, it is vital for businesses to adapt to this new way of life, including the digitalisation of food safety and training. The healthcare industry needs to adapt to the newfound digital needs of its industry to continue to provide a safe, secure and hygienic experience for care home residents.
And with that in mind, many residential homes are doing everything they can to minimise risk and ensure that they’re structure, food hygiene and food safety management systems are up to scratch.
With regulations continuing to be updated, it is important for care homes to ensure that their staff are completely up to date.
At Navitas, we are offering a free food hygiene inspection checklist, to help businesses meet guidelines and follow the correct procedures. The checklist will keep them one step ahead and put them in control, allowing them to meet legislation.
Download Navitas Safety’s free food hygiene inspection checklist today.