Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Hospital in edible food shock!

Regular readers will be used by now to seeing cook-chill factory food murdered by hospital cooks using regeneration trolleys. We’ve seen quiche with a crust that's thicker than roofing felt. I've sampled cold potatoes with all the flavour and allure of an old pair of trainers; while the vegetables have routinely been wetter than an otter's pocket. But tonight I sense someone is at last listening. The food may not be the tastiest 'fayre' in the world but the reheating process has been significantly improved. Please excuse the slightly moody art-house feel to the pictures, it must be the artist in me... or the shock.

Okay, so it’s a fairly tasteless leek and potato soup made from a packet mix. It won’t win any gastronomic awards but it's hot and adequate.

That cheese and onion quiche looks better cooked tonight. It's light and fluffy and the crust for once isn't as tough as a rhino's arse. The hash browns are hot and tasty and only the soggy veg let the side down. This is a big improvement on previous attempts and I'm eating the same as everyone else so it's not just a plate of hand-cooked hospital food especially prepared for me.

More of that roly poly and custard delight but this one is soft enough to eat without cracking your molars in two. How so? It's simply been reheated for the correct time and to the correct temperature before being served as soon as possible. It's not particularly tasty but there's nothing wrong with the cooking.

Remember that this is food that everyone in the hospital is eating. Somewhere in the hospital kitchen someone is making a concerted effort to raise the standards by not cremating the food. Let's hope this continues.

Thought I’d have a sandwich today...

Cheese and cucumber

Generous filling?

Thank goodness Mrs Traction called by

Forgive us our trespasses

For the first time since I was surgically attached to this bed some five weeks ago, I’m actually grateful for having been immobilised. I’m thankful that someone hammered a steel pin the size of a knitting needle through my left shinbone and then proceeded to attach stout pieces of cord to it, before threading the twine through a tortuous series of pulleys in an orthopaedic Gordian knot.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d give anything to be able to walk again right now, but I’m afraid that mobility could land me in hot water; I’m afraid I could end up in maximum-security hospital for a very long time. You see, if I had the use of my limbs I’d go into the next room and smother the occupant’s face with my hyper-allergenic NHS pillow until they had gasped their last breath, finally allowing me to get a decent night’s sleep for the first time in two weeks.  Sleep deprivation is a well-documented and highly effective form of torture that can drive the sanest of men to the very edge of madness.

I suppose I ought to explain why I’m having murderous thoughts about the occupant of the neighbouring room. The present resident has taken to pressing her buzzer at ten-minute intervals throughout the night. For reasons of patient confidentiality I haven’t been able to discover anything about this woman or why she feels the need to disturb my sleep with such monotonous regularity. I only know that she’s elderly and she makes a noise similar to a fox with its leg caught in a gin trap. She makes a blood-curdling screech whenever she’s not pressing her buzzer.

I’m not an impatient man nor am I totally without compassion but there comes a time when my sleep has been so wilfully destroyed that someone must pay with their life. Imagine being poked with a large stick each time your eyelids start to close. Imagine every time your head dropped someone came up behind you and burst a balloon.

If I were the ward manager (whatever happened to matrons?) I’d confiscate the old woman’s buzzer and render her mouth inoperative with a stout length of duck tape. If that seems harsh then perhaps it could be made clear to the woman that she may only use her buzzer a maximum of three times in any twelve-hour period. Additional buzzes would render her klaxon progressively quieter while administering a mild electric shock.

Ideally I’d like it if she were transferred to another ward (preferably in a different hospital at the other end of the country) and then perhaps the charming gentleman in Room 4 (me) could be spared the old woman’s caterwauling and she in turn could avoid suffocation by a deranged individual with bags under his eyes the size of rubbish sacks.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Tonight’s dinner 29/09

That was quite tasty actually...
or else I’ve developed Stockholm Syndrome


Looks familiar.

Interesting Eateries... No 1

Something fishy about this...

Another triumph

Fresh salad too...

A killer stalks the ward

Not for a moment did I think I might be in danger while staying here under the care of the NHS. The nurses and doctors take great efforts to shield me from infection and nasty things like used needles or overdoses of drugs. I mean, things have got so good these days some doctors even wash their hands and tuck their ties in their shirts before examining you.

But all that care isn’t worth a row of beans while a vicious and dangerous killer stalks the wards of the nation’s homes and hospitals. Of course, I’m talking about… biscuits.

There’s nothing we Brits like more than a nice sit down and a cup of tea to dunk our afternoon biscuits in. However, a recent survey carried out by Mindlab International discovered that half of all Britons had at some time been injured by a biscuit, reports The Daily Telegraph.

Seriously! I’m not making this stuff up. The injuries suffered ranged from breaking teeth on biscuits to scalding mouths on hot tea or coffee while dunking said biscuits. A staggering 25 million people have so far been affected by these ruthless snacks with more than 500 individuals being hospitalised by various types of cookies.

And which biscuit is the worst offender? Step forward the humble Custard Cream It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch. This popular biscuit is routinely handed out on the ward at teatime along with chocolate Bourbons. The Custard Cream beat 15 other biscuit types to take the crown of killer cookie, with a risk index rating of 5.63. The safest biscuits were Jaffa Cakes with a much safer score of 1.16.

Up to one third of adults also reported that they’d had suffered a serious mishap when dunking a Digestive or trying to fish the remnants of a collapsed ‘Diggie’ from their teacup. Even more worrying is the 28 per cent of those surveyed who had choked on crumbs and the one in ten who had broken a tooth or filling while biting a biscuit.

However, perhaps most concerning of all were the three per cent of people who had managed to poke themselves in the eye with a biscuit. Even more bizarrely were the seven per cent who managed to be bitten by a pet or “other wild animal” trying to snatch their biscuits.

Mindlab International director Dr David Lewis said: “We tested the physical properties of 15 popular biscuit types, along with aspects of their consumption such as ‘dunkability’ and crumb dispersal.”

With all these dangers existing in our local hospital, I find it impossible to believe that some elf ’n’safety Nazi hasn’t spotted this ‘accident waiting to happen’ and banned Custard Creams from the ward. I think I’m going to stick to cake if I want to get out of here in one piece.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Tonight’s dinner




Last day of voting

There's hardly any time left to vote for your choice of which TV chef should sort out the NHS catering service. I'm disappointed that my favourites, The Hairy Bikers, are not in the lead. I encourage you to start voting for them now before I send round an extra-large portion of Corned-beef Lattice Pie and peas.

Now that’s what I call the real deal

I feel rather like a fussy cat that’s just been indulged after turning his nose up at anything less than Whiskas. This lunch has just disappeared... completely and absolutely. Fresh vegetables and poached salmon flavoured with dill. The only problem is, I rather suspect I have died and gone to heaven or else this is a dream and I'll wake up to a serving of lamb pie.

I’ve been rumbled, haven’t I?

UPDATE: It’s been nearly two hours since I ate my lunch and I cannot believe how much better I feel. My energy and concentration levels have been boosted. I guess you are what you eat.

Sex and orgies could fund the NHS

This weekend an article in The Sunday Times fired up my imagination and gave me a novel idea for solving any shortfalls in the NHS budget over the coming years as we struggle to get our country’s finances back in the black.

It appears that a number of stately homes and country houses are turning to the sex market to help cover their... er… bills. Apparently, renting your castle out for a porn film shoot can pull in a handy £5000 a time, which is probably enough to help plug that leak in the east wing and still leave one with change left over to replace a tired gargoyle with something that has a more effective spurt.

Now I know what you’re thinking; that’s a million miles away from the atmosphere of your average hospital, but surely there must be a germ of an idea here. The orthopaedic ward may not be a suitable set for a gothic bodice-ripping movie, but how about a sex and drugs party at the weekend?

Emma Sayle, is the owner of Killing Kittens, a club for what she calls the “sexually elite”. Her guests are electrified by the thought of orgying under gilt chandeliers, or in front of “vast marble fireplaces” and enjoy seeing naked bodies slinking around in faded Georgian splendour. “It sounds weird,” says a 29-year-old regular, “but I like to think how many people have had sex in these huge rooms before me — even hundreds of years ago.”

Now imagine the same sort of thing if all the guests were allowed to dress up in theatre scrubs or nurses uniforms and have full use of the operating theatre, the traction beds, or even the slabs in the pathology morgue. Now do you get my drift?

All those people who find ER and Gray’s Anatomy get their pulses pumping that little bit faster would absolutely love it. Stir in the temptation of a drug cabinet stuffed full of opiates and assorted stimulants and we’re talking about one hell of a racy party. Hey… we could even open up the hospital pharmacy for a Supermarket Sweep for those willing to pay extra.

Dungeon breaks are also a popular part of this new trend in stately home finance and involve dungeons being kitted out with the very latest S&M paraphernalia for cruel sex. Now I know your average NHS hospital probably doesn’t have a dungeon, but who’s to say that fitting a few chains and racks in the kitchens wouldn’t achieve the same effect? Plus there’s the excitement and the thought of all those patients who are going to suffer later eating the cruel food produced in the very same place in which one’s had a major bondage session.

I realize there might be a few hygiene issues with this last suggestion but I’m sure someone could give the kitchen a clean before the couples got down to their whipping and beating.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Tonight's dinner quiz

Name that soup!

The entree


I wonder what they’re having at home...

Lunch as it arrived

Lunch after all four flakes of protein had been eaten

Dessert or some sort of building material? You decide.

Consultants must come first

There may be shortages of certain non-essential resources in the NHS, things like nurses, drugs or clean bedding, but there’s one indispensable item that doesn’t appear to be in short supply: consultants – management consultants.

The Department of Health currently pisses away between £350 - £600 million each year on employing management consultants. The majority of their ‘work’ has little to do with patient care. Incidentally, I wonder how long it will be before they rebrand themselves as ‘The Department of Wellbeing’. It must be time for a new logo and some salary increases, surely?

The NHS recently drafted in consultants McKinsey to identify where savings could be made. Somehow those suggested savings didn’t include management consultants or unnecessary bureaucracy. According to Private Eye, the bloated new bureaucracy of Primary Health Trusts has ballooned faster than Jordan’s breasts, and the admin bill alone runs at £1.2 billion per annum.

The Department of Health suggests this cost is due to the trusts ‘attempting to drive forward system change’. No, I don’t understand what that bollocks means either. However, what I do understand is that commercial directors employed by these new trusts can enjoy salaries starting at around £100,000 a year.

With that sort of money being flushed down the pan it’s no wonder there’s nothing left in the budget for decent food.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Supper time...

Guess the flavour...

Looks familiar

Normal service has been resumed... unfortunately

What the ****?

Escaped from the path lab?

Thank goodness I had a backup...

Doctors… stop your Twittering!

What is all this Twitter nonsense about? No sooner do I get the hang of blogging than everyone is asking: “Do you tweet?”. To which I normally reply: “only if I’m on a high-fibre diet.”

For those who don’t know, Twitter is a personal blog that’s limited to tweets of just 140 characters. It’s like sending out a one-line mass text message to all your friends… or Followers, as one's Twitter acolytes are known.

Anyway, it appears that Twitter has become increasingly popular with trainee doctors and other younger members of the medical profession. This has prompted a researcher with an ology in ‘stating the bleedin’ obvious’ to claim that tweets might breach patient confidentiality.

The researcher, Dr Katherine Chretien of the Washington DC VA Medical Center, said that medical students may not be aware of how online posting can reflect negatively on medical professionalism or jeopardise their careers.

I can imagine just the sort of thing being twittered…

“Mrs Smith just passed an enormous motion in Room 3!” or “Just gave Mr Johnson a pee bottle with a big hole in it… snigger!”

Dr Chretien said many of the Twitters included profanity and discriminatory language as well as sexually suggestive material and photos showing drunkenness or illicit drug use.

Hello… we’re talking about medical students here. What the hell does she expect? Has the woman never seen Green Wing or watched an Episode of Dr In The House? Medics are notorious for that sort of thing. I once went to a party where the guests were mostly from the medical profession and was staggered by the amount of alcohol consumed and how many of them were smoking. Gallows’ humour it seems is an essential emotional escape valve for those who have to work with the sick, the dying and the terminally stupid.

"Sharing patient stories that are de-identified and respectful, as health professionals might do on personal blogs, can encourage reflection, empathy and understanding,” said the ever-so-earnest Dr Chretien.

"However, content may risk violation of patient privacy, even without using names or other identifiers," the puritan warned.

Oh for heaven’s sake! Lighten up, will you? As long as no names or locations are used then where’s the harm? She’ll be saying jokes are ‘verboten’ next. Why is it that ‘researchers’ always seem totally devoid of a sense of humour or common sense?

The researchers are so bothered by all this naughty blogging lark they think part of a doctor’s training should involve learning how to use Privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter responsibly.

Frankly I’d rather doctors spent their training improving their bedside manner or learning how to put a canula in the back of my hand without it feeling like I've just been shot with an elephant rifle.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Only three days left to vote

Our poll to discover who the public would like to see giving NHS management a good kicking over the standard of food served in our hospitals has already seen more than 900 votes cast. There is a worrying surge of support for the Blessed St Delia of Norwich. Our IT boffins are currently trying to trace the traffic to see if any vote rigging is going on. Ms Smith’s publicist, a Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, claims St Delia’s popularity is grounded in the love of the grateful people of England for her. Meanwhile, Jamie Oliver’s popularity is slowing, but coming up on the inside are those loveable hairy bikers Si and Dave.

But we need more people to vote. There are just three days left before the polls close. So vote early and vote often! Er... no. Just vote the once. Are you listening, Delia?

Guess which course was freshly made


Main Course


They can do it!

I'm not sure if it's kindness or a fiendishly clever PR strategy to take the wind out of my sails, but today I received another delicious cheese and ham panini. This was made by the same chefs who reheat the factory food that the hospital normally serves. It shows that the staff are more than capable of producing good quality and tasty food which is reasonably well presented. Simples!

Barman... make mine a large gel and tonic

Desperate situations call for desperate measures… like the prisoner in a British jail who recently managed to get himself drunk on the alcohol-based hand gel that was brought into the prison to counteract the threat of swine flu.

Now, I’ll admit that being banged up in a hospital on high-strength painkillers and antibiotics strong enough to scare the shit out of MRSA can and does limit one’s opportunities for the occasional snifter. Before long you find yourself dreaming of long-forgotten little pleasures like an ice-cold beer on a scorching summer’s day or the delicious blackcurrant bouquet of a fruity Australian Shiraz on a winter’s eve.

In hospital, such thoughts can drive a sane man to the very edge of madness in much the same way as the thought of a clear cold stream of water can finish off a poor soul lost in the Sahara.

For some reason, British hospitals are total no-go areas for life’s little pleasures like alcohol and tobacco. You can have as much Smack, morphine and other opiates that come round on the drugs trolley in the same way that desserts used to be wheeled around restaurants, but mention the possibility of a small glass of cider or a sweet sherry with your meal, and the Substance Abuse Counsellor will be summoned just as soon as an appropriate note can be scribbled into your medical notes.

So this brings me back to the story of the British prisoner drinking hand gel in order to relieve the monotony of institutional life. The old lag in question had purloined a gel dispenser and then mixed it with fruit juice, water and sugar before proceeding to climb out of his tree.

I particularly enjoyed the quote from Andy Fear, a spokesman for the Prison Officers’ Association, who told the BBC:

“We were informed of an incident within hours of the gel being available. In one of the wings it is believed an inmate was using it inappropriately.

“When you get something called alcohol gel you can see what is going to happen. We had concerns when we heard these were being given to inmates. You don't want drunk prisoners running around the prison.”

I should think not, too! No more than you’d want patients running up down the ward smashed out of their minds.

Amazingly, this isn’t the first time that someone has decided to mix a Swine Flu Sling in the absence of any other tipple. Last March The Royal Bournemouth Hospital announced that it was one of many hospitals that had taken the precaution of removing alcohol-based hand-cleaning gel from reception areas in a bid to stop visitors drinking it. Such is the desperate level of life here in the UK that people are obviously stopping off at the hospital on the way home from work for a ‘quick gel’ with their mates. I knew we were in a recession, but I never realized it was that bad.

Anyway, all this talk of hand gel has caused me to work up a perishing thirst. So in the absence of a nice chilled bottle of Chablis to slake my hankering for booze, I think I’ll have a large tot of Purell Gel with my tuna and potato surprise tonight.

Cin Cin!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Heston takes on NHS task

Heston Blumenthal, owner of the three Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, is apparently a Government collaborator. According to the website, he told delegates at the Cheltenham Science Festival in Gloucester that he is a year into a Government-backed project with the NHS and Reading University to improve hospital food.

Speaking this summer, the highly inventive chef said the project was looking at ways to rejuvenate the dining environment in hospital and improve the flavour of food in the mouth. FFS... where else would you want to improve the flavour of food?

Heston isn’t the first TV chef to try to reform NHS catering. The Better Hospital Food Programme (which was scrapped in 2006) was launched by the Department for Health in 2001 with Lloyd Grossman as its mascot.

Earlier this year, Heston’s restaurant suffered an outbreak of a vomiting and diarrhoea virus which closed the Fat Duck for three weeks. I’m not really sure the NHS needs something like that. After all, some hospitals are perfectly capable of doing that sort of thing on their own!

Tonight's dinner bingo

Guess the soup!


I think I’ve been rumbled and someone has made a big effort with the vegetable portion but I still don't understand why broccoli has to be boiled within an inch of its life. I'm amazed it managed to stay so green and yet be so wet. The vitamins will have been boiled away completely. Such a shame.

Smuggler's fayre

Thank goodness for mothers and their ability to smuggle in edible food.

And this is what I managed to escape...

Taking out the Taliban

Unless you’ve been living in a cave in Tora Bora (or a bunker in Downing Street) for the past year or two, it can’t possibly have escaped your notice that the country is in a bit of a financial squeeze… the technical term is ‘fiscally fucked’. We are spent out, brassic, broke, bust, and impecunious. We are in deep financial shit.

The country is going to have to make one or two economies on a few non-essential items like health, education and defence. Fortunately some of the more essential services such as the British Potato Council or the Energy Saving Trust will, thank God, be spared savage cuts.

So it’s clear that we’re going to have to make some serious savings. Now if anyone suggests even laying a finger on the kit needed to keep our brave troops in Afghanistan safe then they’re going to be on the receiving end of a full colonoscopy and a ice-cold enema from my nurse. However, at the risk of being shot down, I think we can actually make some savings in the defence budget while actually increasing the protection and weaponry of our brave lads and lasses currently up the wrong end of the Khyber Pass.

I’m indebted to a reader emailing from Camp X in Afghanistan who has suggested that the peas that keep appearing on my plate are being misdirected. It’s his considered professional opinion that the peas are of sufficient calibre to take out a Taliban from at least 200 yards. What’s more, these deadly weapons are cheap, environmentally friendly and available in enormous quantities at a hospital near you. All you need is a pea-shooter, a canister of compressed air and a Tally in your crosshairs.

Of course, if you manage to catch your Taliban alive it could be very useful for intelligence purposes to interrogate the chap to glean some intelligence and move forward with more peas to take out a few more of the scallies. Unfortunately, a few weak-kneed liberal types have taken exception to several effective methods of persuasion - such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and hooding – which are now apparently illegal and frowned upon. It’s clear that other cost-effective methods (remember that we’re broke) are needed in order to extract information from the enemy.

Well, I think I’ve found the answer. Since almost 50% of hospital food is wasted we have a free and virtually inexhaustible supply of cold and congealed hospital dinners that can be shipped out to Afghanistan. I was going to suggest using the most lethal forms of these weapons of mass indigestion: pork mince in onions. Then it struck me that there would be uproar from the Birkenstock-wearing and tofu-eating types who would complain about feeding pork to the Taliban. Point taken, but we still have Crofter’s Hotpot or Harvest Pie left in reserve; and let’s not forget the spotted dick with lumpy custard.

One dose of any of these ‘cruel and unusual’ weapons would have your average Tally singing like a canary and wouldn't even contravene the Geneva Convention. And the cost to the taxpayer: a big fat zero. In fact, it would even be good for the environment… there’s nothing like a good bit of recycling.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Bon appetit

An old favourite...

Get voting

Don’t forget to cast your vote in the poll for which TV chef should be drafted in to sort out the NHS slop scandal. Who will receive ‘nul points’? You'll find the poll in the sidebar to the right.

Time to shut down the blog?

A cheese and ham panini purloined for me by one of the lovely members of staff working on the ward. I cannot begin to describe the explosion of taste, texture and sheer ecstasy that this little creation from the staff canteen has brought me. Time to close down the blog if things keep on like this!

Just call me Baron

It was a long and sleepless night for me last night. I was wracked with worry and fear. I simply couldn’t nod off despite the large liquid morphine nightcap that nurse brought round along with the bromide just before lights out. Unfortunately, being in traction, I am denied the pleasure of being able to toss and turn in my sleep so I simply had to lie on my back and make periodic pathetic moaning noises… but that’s another matter.

And what was the reason for this lack of sleep? Simple… there are a lot of workers in this hospital from all over the world and I was wondering how on earth I was going to be able to check all their passports to see if they are legally entitled to work here. I don’t even have a photocopier in my room to make copies of those vital visas and work permits. Am I committing an offence when that worker comes into my room to sweep the floor or mop my fevered brow? My overseas readers may not know that the Attorney General of this poor benighted isle has been caught red-handed employing someone not entitled to work in the UK. It’s an easy mistake to make… unless you happen to be the person who drafted the legislation in the first place. Ignorance simply won’t wash in this case

Of course, if I were a Government minister this wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem since the normal rules do not apply to our lords and masters. The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, does however seem to be the first cabinet minster to actually have had their collar felt has for breaking the law and received an eye-watering fixed-penalty fine of £5000 for not copying her Tongan housekeeper’s passport. I wonder what Clem Atlee or Hugh Gaitskill would make of the idea of a Labour cabinet minister employing their own Tongan housekeeper and, one assumes, other assorted servants, lackeys and houseboys.

While we’re on the subject of titles, I’ve been sitting here for some time thinking that I would quite like a title myself; preferably I’d like to be a Baron. There’s something really raffish about the title of Baron. It conjures up pictures of First World War German aces with impossibly long moustaches, having dog fights in triplanes and shooting down Sopwith Camels. There’s a certain cachet about it… well, there was until Baron Mandleson of of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham (why choose one location when you can have two?) spoiled it all by being made a Baron. However, I understand he may unbaron himself should he seek higher office if Gordon Brown ‘goes Gonzo’.

The advantages of being a Baron? Well, can you imagine ringing The Ivy and asking for a table?

“Good evening. I wonder if you might have a table for two for tomorrow night.”

“I’m sorry sir, the restaurant is fully booked for the next six months.”

“Perhaps you could possibly look again at your bookings? It’s Baron Traction of Blogtown in the County of Blogshire here, by the way.”

“Ah yes, my Lord. It would appear that we do have a last-minute cancellation that had escaped my notice.”

When I get out of here getting into the Lords is going to be my next project. If I’m unable to work then I’m going to do my best to bury my snout deep in the Westminster trough since it’s obviously a lot easier than trying to get Disability Living Allowance out of the Department of Work and Pensions.

And the subsidised food is great!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Tonight's dinner

What's that stuff on the right?

Since you all enjoyed that so much... here's the soup.