Situated in Theydon Bois, Essex Frank Foster House falls within the top 2% of care homes in the country having received the CQC’s Outstanding rating this summer. The 80-bed residential care home is registered for frail elderly, physical disability, sensory impairment and Alzheimer’s.
Home Manager Cheryl Wright is in no doubt that the catering service contributes in no small way to the home’s success. “Mealtimes are of great importance across all Runwood Homes. We believe it is important for residents to enjoy the dining experience together with care support on hand. We also believe it is important for residents to have a choice and variety of meal options. Dining together encourages interaction and conversation; a stimulating, sociable experience.
When the inspectors came she says Frank Foster House was able to evidence choices of daily menus, and: “A new resident had been admitted and we sat with him and the family as we knew he had his own preferences, and we made up a menu which we knew would help the gentleman to settle in at Frank Foster House,” says Cheryl.
“All our meals are prepared by our own chefs and catering teams on site,” she continues. “Our fruits, vegetables and meats are sourced locally and delivered fresh every week: fruit and veg is supplied by Amwell and meat by Barbican. With the help of head office we are able to source what’s the best for our residents to ensure they are provided with a healthy diet.”
There are always two options of meal every day. The menu is printed, with pictures on it to help residents make a choice, and care staff also bring two show plates round at the start of mealtimes. Cheryl says the kitchen is very flexible: “If any of the residents don’t like the food on the menu our chef is more than happy to prepare something else for them.”
By and large the residents tend to go for traditional meals but the home likes to add some more contemporary dishes, like pasta and curries, to give variety. “Particular favourites are fish and chips, pie and mash, quiche and roast dinners,” says Cheryl. Feedback is welcome and the chef goes around during mealtimes asking the residents what they think about the food and how it could be improved. “We also have a residents’ meeting every month where we ask our residents about the food and menu; they can give their choices of food they would like and the feedback is passed to the catering team and chef.
“Residents are always welcome to speak with the CTM, Deputy Manager John Coligardo or myself, as well, with our open door policy,” adds Cheryl.
Theme days and special events are a recurring highlight of life at Frank Foster House, with summer fetes, BBQs and royal events celebrated by residents, family and staff alike. The residents even have a choice of what themed meal days they’d like to see, with pie and mash or Chinese days proving particularly popular.
All the residents are encouraged to eat in the main dining rooms to give them a chance to socialise, although it’s their choice if they want to have their food in the lounges or in their room. “Our dining rooms have a homely feel with a contemporary design,” says Cheryl. “The tables are cleaned, prepared and laid before each meal: they’re dressed with place mats, napkins and all the daily condiments that the residents may require for their meals.”
Ensuring residents are kept well hydrated is an important part of daily life at Frank Foster House. Says Cheryl: “We have drinks offered all over the building and constant monitoring by care staff and CTM to ensure that everyone is kept hydrated. There are snacks offered throughout the day and ice cream, lollies and fruit platters also offer hydration. Residents make their own fresh fruit smoothies too.” Other food related activities which residents are encourage to take part in include baking, vegetable and fruit cutting, and milk shake making.
Drinks and snacks are also available in the café, where residents and their visitors can make their own tea and coffee. “There are always different cakes (diabetic and non-diabetic), biscuits, fruits and sweet treats here. Also residents and their families are welcome to use the café to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or just for a simple gathering,” says Cheryl. Frank Foster House prepares cakes and treats for every resident’s birthday.
What are the greatest barriers to residents enjoying mealtimes and how can a care home overcome these, we asked Cheryl? “Family visits, doctor and nurse visits, etc, create barriers for enjoying mealtimes. Frank Foster House has protected mealtimes in the dining rooms, although families are welcome to come and use the lounges or residents’ rooms if they wish to join us for a meal.
“We had a meeting with our community health team where we organised a target to avoid any visits during our mealtimes so all residents can enjoy their meal and they have been very supportive.”
Dignity in dining is something that the CQC takes very seriously and Frank Foster House is keen to support those residents who need a little help with eating and drinking in a dignified manner. “Via Runwood Homes training, Frank Foster House is part of Prosper Team and Essex Partnership who provide us with training, especially for our new staff,” explains Cheryl. “This training is being provided regularly and can be requested when required.”
So there you have it: the ‘catering blueprint’ for Outstanding success! Well done Frank Foster House.