Going the extra mile to cater to people’s needs and wishes

Ian Bussingham is Head Chef at the Marie Curie Hospice, Bradford. To coincide with our Dinner Down Memory Lane fundraising campaign, we spoke to Ian to ask him about the memorable experiences he tries to create for people cared for at the hospice.  

Head Chef Ian Bussingham
Head Chef Ian Bussingham tries making meals people would enjoy eating.

What does providing a good service mean to you?

My staff and I will always go the extra mile for people here, doing our best to meet everyone’s needs – and that means not just those people we look after, but their relatives too.

It can be difficult for people when they’re putting a loved one first. I know from experience what it means to family members as my wife’s relative Uncle Peter passed away in here last year. I’ve sat there in Uncle Peter’s room and I’ve seen how we can help.

How do you go about finding out, and meeting, people’s different needs?

We don’t have a pre-printed menu here. Instead, we usually have a one-to-one chat with each patient to find out what they’d like to have for their meals with us – they can tell us what they like, or don’t like, to eat!

Service with a smile
Service with a smile

Are there things that you need to consider when catering for people living with a terminal illness?

We find that some people have a poor appetite when they first come in. We’ll ask what kind of food they fancy or we’ll say, 'Just try a little soup'.

It’s great for us to be able to help people to improve their appetite. Families are usually pleased to see their loved ones taking food, especially if they haven’t done so for days. When people stop eating, it’s almost like they’ve given up. Changing that mindset gives their relatives a little bit of reassurance.

How do you deal with different dietary needs and preferences?

We always make sure that there’s information by every patient’s bedside, letting them know what allergens are in each dish we make – even down to what’s in the bread rolls.

We often cater for a variety of cultural and religious dietary needs. We’ll source the right ingredients so we can make meals that our patients will enjoy eating.

How do you help people to celebrate memorable moments, like birthdays or anniversaries?

I remember one patient who had relatives from all over the country. Before she became too ill, she invited them all to the hospice and they had a birthday tea party in the conservatory.

We’ve catered for a christening in the chapel and a wedding in the conservatory. We’ll do what we can to help organise these special occasions as we know they can mean a lot to the people we care for, and their family and friends.

We have a room that can be used for get-togethers in the evenings – it’s been really popular for larger gatherings, especially during the festivities and month of Ramadan when people have more visitors than usual.

What’s your favourite thing about working at the hospice?

I would say people here really care. You can tell that as soon as you walk through the door. Nothing’s too much trouble and it’s that ethos we have that I like.

Our catering team is not here 24/7, but when we’re here for 12 hours each day, we try and accommodate people’s needs and wishes whenever we can. I thoroughly enjoy my work here as I think we do make a difference.

Inspired by the work Ian and his catering team do? By signing up to host a Dinner Down Memory Lane, you could also share the joys of good food and good company for a great cause