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A New Perspective For Food Management & Safety In Aged Care

by Andrew Thomson on February 25, 2020

Image: ACH Group

A new perspective is required by Aged Care providers when managing food, nutrition and food safety if they are to meet regulatory challenges, balance the bottom line and meet political and community expectations.

Food in Aged Care remains a significant discussion point with the Royal Commission. There continues to be ongoing negative publicity about food quality and nutrition and the amount of money spent on food. This should be of concern to every senior manager and board member.

Poor quality food gives rise to increased food wastage, budget pressures and impacts on the health and well-being of residents (customers). When food expectations are not met an increasing number of family members, friends and employees will post phone camera images to social media and media outlets. No organisation needs negative media attention.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has found in relation to food:

  • “dreadful food, nutrition and hydration, and insufficient attention to oral health, leading to widespread malnutrition, excruciating dental and other pain, and secondary conditions
  • the Dietitians Association of Australia use current research to estimate that 22–50% of people in residential aged care are malnourished” (The Interim Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care October 2019).

Catering to aged care customers is a large part of quality of care.

Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian Anne Schneyder, from Nutrition Professionals Australia says “providing the right food to the right person and ensuring that preferences, nutrition and dietary needs are met is a complex task. It is now well recognised that malnutrition and poor nutrition can independently increase risk of wounds and falls, increase the rapid onset of mortality and costs. It’s something Aged Care senior management and Boards simply can’t ignore”.

Good food AND good nutrition go hand in hand says Schneyder.

We know there are Aged Care facilities ignoring operational risk in managing food safety. Effective management of food safety is viewed as a significant challenge with many facilities relying heavily on advice from the food regulator or auditor – some take incorrect advice from consultants working outside their area of discipline – minimum compliance and industry standards are often not met (.i.e. inadequate employee training, incomplete paper-based record keeping, not reviewing the Food Safety Management System). This suggests operational management and employees don’t understand their food safety management system and are potentially placing customers at risk. These are issues discussed within the Lantern Project, the Institute of Hospitality in Healthcare and with food regulatory authorities.

There are good news stories, but they are few.

New approaches, thinking and behaviours are required.

The way forward…..

Everything to do with quality starts and ends with the customer. This model used for Quality Management is customer driven.

Image: Research Gate

The customer is shown on both the left and right. The model draws on the discussions and requirements from your customer – what your customer wants.

The model also highlights the importance of gaining information on customer satisfaction. This and other measurements and evaluations provide vital feedback on performance.

The rest of the model depicts activities that are considered fundamental to the smooth operation of a process of product or service. The box, leadership emphasises the need for management commitment, providing resources and the need to study the results of the feedback and other information.

A strategy to raise a level of awareness and understanding of high-level issues which impact on the strategic and normal business operations of Aged Care facilities is required.

There are ten priority areas that must be addressed.

Giving your residents (customers) a voice by building an effective and engaging solutions focussed “local community” in a Food Management and Safety policy and menu design. Residents and families within the community need an environment which enables them to exercise choice and responsibility in relation to food. Collaboration is needed to address the diversity of need.

Policy making involves people in numerous sections throughout your local community with different objectives. Combine all processes for ease of creating your policy.

A systems approach is required to identify all elements of your policy and the intersecting points. This will lead to greater understanding of the system and its impact.

Managing the different interests, goals and values in the internal food supply chain.

A well trained and knowledgeable employee provides the best protection, it also delivers your employees with information and skills that allow them to play a greater role. This type of training raises the status of the job, eliminates serious incidents and tends to reduce staff turnover as workers feel they are part of something important and are recognised for their contribution.

Well planned, strategic approaches to employee training is required to meet current and future business needs and regulatory and customer expectations.

Invest in digital and cloud-based solutions for monitoring food safety and kitchen management systems as they provide consistency of information, are extremely efficient and responsive. They also provide an audit trail and will provide cost savings.

Customer satisfaction requires ongoing monitoring of performance to determine how satisfied your customers are.

Review processes and management review, which examine critically at the whole system and make improvements to it.

Risk – define and implement a strong risk culture across the organisation.

Establish an effective monitoring and reporting process for managing operational risk. There should be timely reporting of key information on all matter’s food management, nutrition and food safety outcomes to senior management and the board of directors to support proactive management of risks.

Good governance involves the establishment of a framework of values, processes and practices designed to regulate, monitor and provide effective reporting on organisational performance. Through this framework, boards and directors exercise their governing authority and make decisions to achieve the organisation’s purpose and goals. Directors ensure the organisation operates effectively, ethically and complies with all laws.

Want further advice or information? Contact Andrew Thomson on 0422285720 or email info@thinkstsolutions.com.au

Think ST Solutions helps protect and grow food businesses through innovation and risk reduction strategies