I have been in hospital three times – 30 years ago, 12 years ago and 2 days ago.
Thirty years ago the menu system served to me was the meal that had been ordered by the previous occupant of my bed. That, at least, was the theory, but subsequent experience suggested it might be less logical than that.
The conversation tended to centre on “operations I have had”, which didn’t really improve the atmosphere around the dining table.
The random nature of the menu arrangement became clear when, after three days, I left without once getting the meal I’d ordered. What I did get was mainly boil-in-the-bag scrambled egg, consisting of a square yellow block surrounded by water. With the addition of random veg and bits of fish and meat…
I will leave this painful episode with a quote from one of the convalescents, who actually seemed to like the stuff: “You don’t get food like this at home, do you?”
I had to confess that I didn’t get food like that at home.
Spool forward 18 years and once again I’m in the grip of the NHS. They have had my trousers down, tested my prostate and declared an intention to insert a camera into my bladder via a passageway quite clearly not designed for the purpose.
They had to take me in again after getting it wrong the first time – I’ve run them into one as they were only a few months apart. On each occasion they cancelled first time due to lack of beds.
The first meal was cold because we were at the far end of the ward. The only choice was fish and chips (bread-crumbed fish garden peas) because everything else had run out. There were five of us but only four fish, so they chopped the tail sections off and served them up to the fifth man.
They didn’t actually run out of food again in the next few days but we never had the full menu available or hot food. I did suggest it might be nice if they started at our end of the ward sometimes but they just looked at me in a snotty manner and ignored me.
To be fair, the food and system were both better than my previous experience.
Finally we have the latest round of visits – the December swelling and the events of Friday. More trousers, more tests and more cameras.
They have a new trolley, which keeps the food hot, and they seemed to have plenty of food. The choice is better and the standard is higher. The fish was better, it was battered and the peas were mushy, as is proper. It isn’t perfect, it tends to lack vegetables, but they do deliver it to your bed, and I did look forward to mealtimes.
That anticipation may have been due to boredom rather than the dining experience, but it’s definitely an advance on 30 years ago, when I used to dread the menu lottery and developed a fear of scrambled eggs.