Miss Elizabeth Walker1, Ms Eleanor  Capel1

1Northeast Health Wangaratta, Wangaratta, Australia


Introduction: In 2011-12, 17% of Australians reported avoiding a food due to food allergy or intolerance¹, with safe management of hospital patients with food allergies essential in reducing risk of adverse outcomes. Current food allergy practices at Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW) remain unclear and inaccurate, increasing risk of allergen exposure.
Objectives: This study aimed to improve patient safety, minimise harm, and standardise food allergy management at NHW.
Method: Interview-style surveys of admissions and nursing staff (n=8), foodservice staff (n=7), dietitians (n=2) and patients (n=1) was conducted with thematic analysis and process mapping of current management systems completed. A point prevalence study on documentation compliance with key performance indicators occurred on inpatients at NHW (n=85).
Results: Process maps (n=7) identified multiple areas of communication breakdown and system errors, including lack of staff ownership and responsibility. Survey results highlighted the need for improved communication between ward and foodservice staff, and a streamlined process for food allergy management. Foodservice staff training was recommended. Point prevalence results identified 5 patients with food allergies, with 40% documentation compliance with key performance indicators. Alarmingly, 0% of these allergies were entered into the foodservice system.
Conclusions: Establishment of a multidisciplinary food and nutrition committee was recommended to develop food allergy guidelines, initiate staff training, conduct auditing processes, and complete a menu review. Finally, multiple areas of risk within the current foodservice system at NHW were highlighted, indicating the need to investigate the management of other high risk diet codes.

1.Australian health survey. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2014.


Elizabeth Walker works as a clinical dietitian at Northeast Health Wangaratta. She has worked across multiple regional and metropolitan health services over the past 5 years in acute and sub-acute care. Elizabeth has a passion in improving nutrition outcomes of hospital patients and improving nutritional care within a multi-disciplinary context.

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