PROVIDING three meals a day for just £2.86 per patient is a tough task that would leave many top chefs throwing in the towel.

But the catering team at Warrington Hospital meet that challenge every day serving 1,500 freshly-made meals for poorly patients at the Lovely Lane site.

The Warrington Guardian took a look behind-the-scenes at how food passes from chopping board to the ward.

Steve Miller, catering manager, said the secret to their success is remaining traditional as one of 40 per cent of hospitals across the country which still provide a fresh service rather than heated up ready meals.

He added: “We have always been traditional and we hope to always stay that way as there’s so many benefits including nutritional values.

“Lloyd Grossman tried to bring in some different dishes nationally but we found a lot of dishes were not appropriate for older patients.

“We also have to consider our budget and use only NHS-accredited suppliers.”

From keeping a wide range of ages happy with the choice of dishes to providing pureed food for people having trouble eating, giving people appealing, healthy options when they are poorly and providing meals for diabetics and those who are mal-nourished, the catering team has to juggle a wide range of needs and tastes over a two-week menu cycle.

In a week the team of five chefs will handle 100kg of potatoes, 100 to 200kg of various types of meat each week and 150kg of fresh veg including carrots and onions.

New choices on the menu are often through recommendations and feedback from patients before they are nutritionally analysed by dieticians at the hospital.

The team, who were awarded a top hygiene rating of five, also regularly analyse feedback if any particular dishes have not been successful.

Dietician Dawn Clayton added: “Patients want different dishes when they are fit and well compared to when they are ill and recovering and there’s different food habits for different generations.

“Older patients want meat, veg and potatoes or traditional things like cottage pie whereas younger patients want pizza but because we don’t buy ready meals we can be more flexible and provide plain chicken or fish if people can’t have anything else on the menu.”

WHAT’S on the menu?

Breakfast menu includes cereal, toast and porridge Dinner often includes a choice of two fresh soups, sandwiches or a salad with hot options including sausage casserole or vegetable hot pot.

Evening meals largely consist of meat, potatoes and veg including dishes like minced steak and onion pie and battered fish with lemon or new dish beef bourguignon followed by chocolate sponge, fruit cocktail or cheese and biscuits.

Snacks are also sent up to the wards twice a day including wrapped biscuits and cake

A TYPICAL day: Patients fill in menu cards the previous afternoon which are collected and sorted by menu clerics.

Chefs start at 6am to start prep before breakfast starts at 7.30am and served to wards until 8.45am.

Preparations for lunch starts at 8.15am including the puddings and main courses.

The team of five chefs prepare to start serving lunch from 11.15am before the trollies start returning and the process starts again for the evening meal.

It takes 90 minutes to serve the food during the evening with chefs leaving at 5.30pm and catering assistants leaving at 8pm.

All ready to do it all over again the next day