What do consumers of inpatient mental health facilities want to consume? Insights from a food service consultation process

Mrs Amber Thoroughgood, Mrs Cassandra  Knight

1Hunter New England Local health District, Hunter New England, Australia

Background: The provision of foodservices to inpatients in Hunter New England Local health District (HNELHD) Mental Health (MH) facilities is challenging, as these services can be acute, rehabilitation or older persons units, part of an acute hospital or located independently and admissions can be voluntary or involuntary. Consumers of these facilities have a range of nutrition needs from undernourishment and poor appetite, to metabolic syndrome and large appetites. They are generally younger than acute hospital inpatients, and have a higher risk of physical co-morbidities such as heart disease and diabetes1. The NSW ACI Nutrition Standards for Mental Health Inpatient Facilities is used as the baseline for nutrition, but does this compare to what MH consumers want?

Method: A consultation process was completed for each site by the AH Project Officer, which included completing surveys with consumers, carers, HNELHD staff and food service staff. Focus groups were held at some sites, to discuss the topics in the surveys.


Speaking with consumers and staff revealed some interesting insights regarding what is important to them:-

  • Access to healthy food, larger meals and variety
  • Different food on weekends to differentiate from weekdays. E.g. Hot breakfast on weekends
  • Reducing waste
  • limited access to cakes, desserts and hot breakfasts to prevent weight gain
  • A homelike environment for eating, including special events such as BBQ’s
  • Ability to cater for individual diet needs
  • Flexibility to meet individual site needs
  • Yoghurt, Cheese + Biscuits and nuts were the most requested snacks.
  • Access to the same quality of food provided to acute facilities


The consultation process was valuable to provide an opportunity for consumers to advocate for what is important to them in regards to nutrition. The results showed  support for the ACI nutrition standards for MH, however also revealed new insights that  are being incorporated in new menus, such as increasing access to healthy foods, limiting less nutritious foods, increasing access to therapeutic diets and providing “weekend specials” to differentiate weekends.

RatcliffeT, Dabin S, Barker P. Physical healthcare for people with serious mental illness. Clin. Governance 2011; 16:20-28

Biography: To be confirmed

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