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Ashgate Hospice > What’s on the menu for patients at Ashgate Hospice?

Whenever anyone stays with us on our Inpatient Unit, we will always ensure they are well looked after. This means making sure our patients are as comfortable as they can be, doing everything we can to meet their needs and provide them with fresh and tasty meals. We often hear from people about how lovely the food is, but what does it take to make delicious and nutritious meals for our patients? 

Mark Taylor is Head Chef at Ashgate Hospice, and manages a team of 13, including chefs, catering assistants and dining room assistants. The team are supported by over 30 volunteers, who help to ensure tasty food is delivered from our kitchen to our patients, and their work is invaluable. 

Together, the team work together to provide three meals a day for our patients, plus snacks are available on the afternoon trolley, but they can be requested at any time of the day. 

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Our Head Chef, Mark Taylor, manages the Catering Team at the hospice

“It is a challenge to have a menu to suit all patients, be adaptable to changing the consistency of the meals, and keeping it within budget each day; all whilst sounding new and tempting! I would love to put on halibut, duck breast, venison and fillet steak once in a while, but to be honest when you feel unwell a stew or cheese on toast is probably what we would all prefer and I’m here to get people what they want!”

What is served to patients at Ashgate Hospice? 

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the team don’t skimp on the offer of a good, hearty breakfast! There’s a choice of a full English breakfast, including bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, and a choice of fried, scrambled and poached eggs, as well as porridge, toast and a choice of cereal. 

For both lunch and dinner, the team offers meals based on a set menu, and for every lunch and dinner meal every single day, patients can choose from four starters, two main courses and two puddings. The team work to a set menu which is on a rolling three-week rota. This means our patients get to choose from a variety of dishes, so it doesn’t get too samey. Each day, the menu is also chosen based on the type of day it is, so for instance, if it is a hot day, a salad is on the menu. If at any time a patient isn’t tempted by any of the options on the menus, the team will offer a jacket potato or sandwich, which we think are equally as delicious! 

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Meal prepared by our Catering Team
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The team serving up dessert.

What goes into developing the menu? 

It takes a lot of thought to develop the menu. Mark and the team try to ensure there is a mix of seasonal and classic dishes that patients would find comforting and tasty. Dishes are made as nutritious as possible with the addition of vegetables and healthy fats, and the team will make something to boost up calorie content if it’s needed. The team also need to consider any food allergies and will make any last-minute changes or alternatives to the menu if this is needed. 

A lot of the time, the demands are for something with suitable consistency to suit patients’ needs to ensure they can eat something, no matter what level of care they are receiving and how close to the end of their lives they are; that is really important, so it is a balancing act. One of the things the team will do is puree a meal off the menu for any patients who struggle to get the consistency they require. It means they don’t feel left out and will also benefit from the nutritious and tasty food that is on offer. There are other consistency levels of meals the team will offer and make themselves, including minced and moist, and soft and bite-sized, which are frozen in individual bags to make sure there are plenty of options available.

Budget is also a key component when the team are putting together menus. As a charity, we have to make the most out of every single penny, so the team have to consider ingredients costs and how to make the best and most out of everything. Over the years, we have been incredibly grateful for support with either free or reduced food at times, too. 

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Pie, chips, peas and gravy.
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A meal which has been pureed.

Can patients eat their own food or takeaway? 

Patients aren’t allowed to make their own food, but they can order a takeaway from anywhere they wish. They can even eat their favourite takeaway with their family. Our catering team won’t be offended!  

Sometimes, the team will go above and beyond and create something special for a patient. Here’s a few examples: 

  • One of our patients fancied a movie night, so the team put together their own “takeaway” including pizza, potato wedges and chocolate brownies.
  • A patient asked for a Spanish-themed lunch, so our Head Chef, Mark, got to work and put together a very tasty-looking paella and patatas bravas dishes. The beautiful colours were enough to bring a ray of sunshine on a rainy day! 
  • One of our patients wanted to take his daughter out for an afternoon tea for her birthday, but unfortunately, he couldn’t, so we brought the afternoon tea to them! 
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A patient fancied a movie night, so the team made a "takeaway" for them.
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The beautiful colours of spanish-themed dishes.

What about families and visitors? 

Family members who stop overnight at the hospice are offered toast and porridge in a morning.  

All visitors are able to purchase tasty hot and cold meals, snacks and drinks every day from the dining room, Ashgate Coffee Co. If a patient is at the end of their life and a loved one doesn’t want to leave the room, the team will ensure they have a meal. 

  

What happens at Christmas? 

Christmas dinner is certainly not forgotten about or scrimped on! The team will prepare and cook for all patients, staff and visitors on Christmas Day, and they will go above and beyond to make it as special as possible for everyone. Staff and visitors are not asked to pay for their meal this day, either. The turkeys for the big day are donated every year from a very generous supporter called Chris Blagg, and they are of a terrific standard of welfare and flavour! 

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The Catering Team are supported by volunteers.
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Volunteer serves cake to one of our patients.

Where do the ingredients come from? 

We try to source our ingredients locally and support the local community. Our butcher is local farm shop Highfield House at Walton. We get our dairy items from Woodthorpe Grange Dairy at Old Tupton. Any dry or frozen goods we get from Holdsworth’s, and for fruit and vegetables, we go to G W Price, who have supported us a lot in the past through donating produce and sponsoring our dining room. We are so grateful to Jacksons The Bakers who have donated free bread to us over the years and continue to do so, along with supporting us at various fundraising events. We are also thankful for cheese that we receive from Bradbury Cheeses.  

Any ingredients that we receive free of charge allow us to put the money we would have spent back into the care that is provided to our patients, so it makes a huge difference to us. 

 

Are patients allowed alcohol? 

This is something that surprises a lot of people, but yes, patients are allowed alcohol. In fact, there is a drinks trolley that does the rounds on the Inpatient Unit every day, with a selection of alcoholic beverages for our patients to choose from. Whether it’s a beer, or a whisky – they can have whatever they fancy. The team will even pop a bottle of wine or gin and tonic in the fridge to keep them cool ready for the evening if a patient would like that. 

 

So, there we have it! There’s a lot that goes into serving meals for patients at Ashgate Hospice, but the efforts of the team don’t go unnoticed. With such delicious and carefully thought-out meals and incredible service, there’s no wonder our catering team receive such wonderfully kind feedback.