Red Tray system to identify hospital patients who need mealtime assistance

From left: June Barrett, senior dietitian, patient Sheila Rabbitte, and catering staff member Aoife Fahy, with a red tray to illustrate the new initiative at University Hospital Galway.

From left: June Barrett, senior dietitian, patient Sheila Rabbitte, and catering staff member Aoife Fahy, with a red tray to illustrate the new initiative at University Hospital Galway.

A new system to identify patients who need additional assistance at mealtimes has been introduced at the west's biggest hospital.

The Red Tray Initiative at University Hospital Galway will ensure that patients who may need extra help and support from staff at mealtimes are clearly identified as their meals will be served on red trays.

June Barrett, a senior dietitian at UHG, said the red trays are a visible indicator of vulnerable patients who need help and support during mealtime.

"Patients who have a red tray will be given encouragement by staff to eat at mealtimes and will be given help with eating if they need it. Or it may be a case that they need more time to eat. Sometimes, simply making a patient comfortable and positioned correctly may be all that is required.

"Statistics show that more than one in four patients admitted to Irish hospitals have significant weight loss and signs of malnutrition. The evidence also shows that adequate nutrition can significantly improve patient outcome, reduce length of stay, and reduce risk of re-admission within 45 days."

Chris Kane, the general manager of Galway University Hospitals, stated the Nutrition and Hydration Committee at the hospital is continually looking for ways to improve patient care.

"It identified the Red Tray initiative as a way to highlight patients who may need extra support at mealtimes. Also, last year we introduced a Protected Mealtimes Policy which provides patients with dedicated time to have their meal without interruption and allows staff to assist them and concentrate on their nutritional needs."

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