Elderly people on hospital wards are not being properly fed, according to a survey of 110 NHS trusts in England by the charity Age Concern.
It reports that 43% of trusts have still not introduced protected mealtimes, where non-urgent ward activities stop in favour of focusing on feeding patients.
It uncovered examples where patients were taken to the lavatory during mealtimes or where routine examinations were conducted that caused meals to be missed.
It also found that one in three NHS Trusts in England have not yet introduced a red tray system, where meal trays are colour-coded to show a patient needs help with eating.
The Healthcare Commission measures quality standards relating to nutrition, but Age Concern does not believe these go far enough. It wants the new health and social care regulator, the Care Quality Commission, to make nutrition a top priority for the NHS.
In 2007, the National Patient Safety Agency received 29,000 reports of incidents relating to patient nutrition. Studies have shown that six out of 10 older people are at risk of becoming malnourished or seeing their situation get worse in hospital. Common complaints included badly fitted feeding tubes and frail patients who could not reach their food.
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