New practice-based learning programme wins dietetic innovation award

08 Jan 2024

A new practice-based learning programme (PBL) that introduces students to a hospital setting early on in their degrees has received the prestigious Dame Barbara Clayton Award from the BDA General and Education Trust. Dr Emma Parsons, Programme Lead and Irantzu Arregui-Fresneda, Module Lead for Year 1 Practice Education, at the University of Winchester, received the award from BDA CEO Liz Stockley at a ceremony in late 2023.

The Dame Barbara Clayton Award is awarded to members who demonstrate innovation and new ways of working that have positive outcomes for the profession and patients, on behalf of the BDA GET.

The Mealtime Assistant Volunteer Placement from the nutrition and dietetics team at the University of Winchester has been developed to allow students to start their clinical training in a hospital setting, within the first semester of their programme. Working closely with the volunteering team at the Hampshire Hospitals Trust, it allows students to go on to wards in a volunteering capacity to develop their communication and professionalism skills.

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Emma and Irantzu from the University of Winchester with BDA CEO Liz (centre)


The PBL builds confidence and knowledge through students helping patients at mealtimes. This work involves feeding those that need help or simply being there to speak to older patients. Students also get a tour of the hospital kitchen, furthering their knowledge of hospital food provision.

It doesn’t replace staff working on wards, but enhances what they are able to do. Patients feel supported and have a better experience as well. The hospital’s volunteering team were also very supportive of it as it was a welcome source of volunteers post Covid-19, after many hadn’t returned for fear of entering a hospital environment.

Many students go into a hospital setting without having any experience of how things run, so the programme provides several avenues of support with communication and professionalism prior to and during placement, fully equipping students with what they need. Students spoke passionately at the ceremony about the confidence it gave them ahead of their more in-depth practice-based learning.

Dr Emma Parsons said, “Receiving the Dame Barbara Clayton Award was an absolute honour. Developing this placement has allowed research into the benefits of mealtime assistants on patient and ward experience to be applied in a consistent and sustainable way. It has required a collaborative approach with the Trust’s volunteering services, ward staff and our students to ensure it meets everyone’s needs. We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all stakeholders for their ongoing support with this innovative practice-based learning.”

The Mealtime Assistant Volunteer Placement is even being rolled out to other allied health professions, demonstrating innovation and relevance to the wider workforce, making it a worthy winner of the Dame Barbara Clayton Award.

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Attendees at the presentation of the Dame Barbara Clayton Award 


Irantzu Arregui-Fresneda added, “We were truly honoured to receive the Dame Barbara Clayton Award. Our Mealtime Assistant Volunteer Placement not only provides our students with an opportunity to develop their communication skills and professional practice, but it also enhances patient care by offering support to staff working in busy hospital ward environments. To have Liz Stockley and her team come to present and celebrate the award to us at the University of Winchester was a highlight not only for us, but also for our students and the Trust’s volunteer team, all who work tirelessly to make this such a success.”

Liz Stockley added, “It’s an absolute pleasure to present this award to the dietetic team at the University of Winchester. Hearing first hand from the volunteer coordinators and the students taking part, gave me a real understanding of just how important this practice-based learning has been for everyone involved, but especially the patients that have been supported at mealtimes.”

The BDA GET has a long history of supporting the science and practice of dietetics through the promotion of national awards, which recognise the excellent work carried out by members, from publishing original research work, through to innovation in practice and educational resources.

Find out more about the GET Awards here.

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