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Qualifications for care home catering?
care home catering" width="300" height="200" />Caterers in care homes undoubtedly play a key role in the care workforce, but historically they have not been required to have any specific care qualifications, yet an understanding of the dietary needs of service users is important.
Lack of training for care home catering staff may undermine the sector
In a recent article in the Guardian, it was suggested that the lack of training and qualifications for caterers in care homes can lead to a poor or even unsafe service. Media attention on nutritional standards in care nutrition, coupled with scrutiny from Care Quality Commission inspectors, have led to some improvements and developments in the sector, however, the Guardian piece suggests that the sector is still being undermined by the challenges of adequate training and qualifications.
The lack of a specialised training route into care home catering may reinforce a view that catering staff fall outside the core provision of care at the home. Good examples of care catering exist, and this may be in part because some care home managers will ensure their catering staff undertake some training with respect to the nutrition needs of care home residents. Others don’t have training resources or budget, so may rely on generic information from the healthcare sector.
National care catering qualifications may be a positive step
The article recognises that although care catering is typically undertaken with the intention of providing the best possible care, the absence of a recognised formal professional catering qualification dedicated to the health and social care sector may contribute to inconsistent standards across the industry. A national care catering qualification could help tackle this, by helping staff understand how caterers can help contribute to the health and wellbeing of residents. In fact, last month a pilot scheme was launched in Barnet and Southgate College to produce an NVQ diploma in professional cookery in health and social care catering. The diploma covers the core curriculum that is delivered to any professional chef, as well as some additional areas specific to the health and social care industry, including nutrition and hydration, texture-modified foods and information relating to allergies and diets. The hope is that students will gain the necessary understanding and specific skills required for effective catering in the healthcare, social care and community meal sectors, raising excellence across the board and further safeguarding the health and wellbeing of patients, residents and service users. If the pilot is successful the course may be rolled out in colleges throughout the UK.
Care staff and catering staff need to talk
This is a start, but the process of introducing qualifications will undoubtedly take time. In the meantime, managers must ensure that care staff and catering staff work together and talk to one another, to help improve the quality of provision. A gap in understanding can unintentionally lead to a poor or even unsafe service, such as with texture modified diets, which can help people who have difficulty swallowing and chewing.
Additionally, whilst pilot schemes and local initiatives are encouraging signs, care catering training needs to be joined up nationally, and we need to develop a shared understanding of what best practice in this area looks like.
Ayela Spiro, British Nutrition Foundation – QCS Expert Nutrition Contributor