Through our project work with NHS England, patients and carers have identified several areas where NHS resources supporting meal and snack times in hospital could be strengthened or improved through minor amendments.

Participants in a focus group held last month said NHS England’s existing written resources for patients and staff were clear and helpful, but felt some changes and additional information on the online portal, where the resources are accessed, could make them even better.

Why patients may need help

One key recommendation was to be clearer in describing the reasons why a patient may need help during meal and snack times. The group suggested aligning the staff and patient resource by highlighting the need for staff help in ordering meals and snacks.

The report notes the importance of the mealtime coordinator role and suggested mentioning it in the resource for patients, not just in the staff resource. Participants also raised concerns about the lack of clarity about whether it was ok to bring food in from outside for patients. The group recommended written resources have guidance on this issue.

The significance of mealtimes as special occasions, especially in hospital settings, was also mentioned. The suggestion was that the resources highlight this more prominently, particularly on celebratory days, as it could aid in a patient's recovery process.

Snacks for visitors

Participants also suggested the resources provide guidance on the availability of snacks and meals for family and friends who spend extended periods in the hospital supporting their loved ones.

Lastly, concerns were raised about how the resources would be used and how staff and patients would be made aware of them. Suggestions included involving mealtime coordinators, volunteers, using posters and visual aids, staff attentiveness to patients' eating and drinking habits, and incorporating patient feedback mechanisms.

Read the report Supporting patients with meals and snack times while in hospital.

Please help spread the word on this important issue. Food is more than fuel for the body, it is a critical component of a patient’s care and recovery. Use the social media buttons below to share the report. 
If you need guidance for any aspect of health and social care, call our free helpline 0800 345 7115 and speak to one of our advisers. 
Have you seen our resources on nutrition? Check out the Patients Association Nutrition Checklist and resources for people living with disease-related malnutrition.