Sandra Dick: The ills of our hospitals’ food

The'dish' served up to Kat Troake's grandmother. Picture: comp
The'dish' served up to Kat Troake's grandmother. Picture: comp
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THE dreaded lurgy struck our house recently, bringing three days of sweats and chills, spinning head and Usain Bolt-like sprints to the bathroom.

Food was a no-go. As time wore on, we managed the smallest sip of cool water. Eventually, like fussy toddlers, we weaned ourselves on to a tiny morsel of fresh fruit, a crumb of toast, a digestive biscuit and a plate of homemade soup.

I know, I know... too much information. Everyone knows that when you feel below par, food – even if it’s the very thing your body needs – has the ability to bring either instant comfort or immediate revulsion.

At least our bout of sickness passed in days. Much tougher to tickle the taste buds of those who find themselves confined to a hospital bed for weeks, even months. There, sadly, all the jokes about hospital food seem too close to the truth to be funny.

Certainly judging by the grey slop masquerading as a plate of corned beef hash, stovies to the rest of us, pictured by hospital visitor Kat Troake, congratulations should go to the Western General for discovering what not to serve up to patients. Unfortunately everything about what was delivered to her 76-year-old grandmother, Susan Drummond, appeared to yell “don’t eat me!” A dollop of wet, grey sludge – not a colourful carrot or pea in sight to brighten the dreariness, it had a look of having been dumped on its boring white plate from a great height, no doubt resulting in the kind of “thud” a giant turd leaving a rottweiler’s behind might make as it lands in a dirty puddle below.

Shocked by what was on offer, Ms Troake grabbed her phone to snap a picture which she shared on social media so we could all see just what gloop looks like.

Soon, others shared their grim images of hospital food: there was a lone baked potato that resembled a muddy tennis ball roasted at gas mark 5 for three days and a dish of watery stew that could have been something the neighbouring patient threw up.

By chance, this hash horror unfolded just as the hospital’s kitchen staff were being given a pat on the back at the first-ever NHS Good Food Challenge. How it must stick in the craws of patients forcing back a plate of dreary wallpaper paste to hear the dishes served up there included smoked mackerel pate with chilli and coriander oatcakes, mouthwatering Ayrshire pork stuffed with black pudding and haggis, fresh tatties and crisp steamed vegetables.

But also, I suspect, equally frustrating for those talented staff whose culinary abilities appear to be stifled either by tight budgets or some kind of logistical mess that means it’s simply not possible to deliver the dishes they might want, reducing them to trotting out unadventurous “old favourites” and grim offerings that return uneaten.

I doubt that the Western General’s food, made on site unlike the Royal Infirmary where the nosh is brought in, is the worst on offer. Indeed many have praised the food there. Part of the problem, I think, is our modern culinary expectations are now much higher and more sophisticated than days of old. We’re more used to dining out, being offered endless supermarket choices and shelves of fresh and exotic meals that hospital catering on a massive scale and a tight budget is rarely going to have us salivating.

Chef Mark Greenaway has offered his services in helping tweak what’s on offer – for a start, he will probably suggest ditching the mashed potato doled out using an ice cream scoop.

No one expects hospital food to be a five-star perk of being ill, but food that at least looks good enough to eat would be fine for starters.

No Smokies without fire

Hope you’ve booked your tickets for Smokies at the Festival Theatre at the end of the month.

Apparently it’s a tale of two lonely spinsters who make a living catching and smoking fish. Not only that, but it mixes visual and physical theatre with circus techniques and is all played out without the use of words. Isn’t theatre just wonderful? And just £14 for your ticket.

Do enjoy. Sadly, I’m sure I’ve other fish to fry that night.

Well, tram you, Mr Buchanan

Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan seems a very forgiving chap. He doesn’t think there’s any point in spending more money on an inquiry into Edinburgh’s trams fiasco, arguing citizens “just want to get on and forget about it”.

Rather than throw good money after bad, he reckons the cash would be better spent extending the line down to Leith.

Could he be any further off beam? Edinburgh folk have no choice but to accept the trams are here, but few are in the mood to simply airbrush a multi-million pound shambles out of their lives. The people of Edinburgh are entitled to know what went wrong, why and, yes, whose fingerprints are all over this £776m mess.


Everyone’s heard of Apple, right? Wrong. Told Apple had opened a new shop, my technophobe sis in law really couldn’t understand why a store would sell only... yes... apples. Doh.