Nutrition and hydration not viewed as priority in some hospitals - HIQA

21% of facilities do not have a system in place to screen for malnutrition risks, a review hos found

Image: Lynne Cameron / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Image: Lynne Cameron / PA Archive/Press Association Images

A new HIQA review has found that nutrition and hydration are not viewed as a priority in some hospitals.

That is despite malnutrition affecting one in four people admitted to hospital.

More than 500 patients were consulted for the review in 41 different hospitals, and there were unannounced inspections in 13 hospitals.

21% of facilities do not have a system in place to screen for malnutrition risks, HIQA found.

In some cases, patients who were not mobile and could not reach the water cooler were not routinely offered drinks.

HIQA also says that less than a third of the hospitals inspected had a system to replenish water jugs with fresh water during the afternoon.

There was also a lack of consistency in terms of the meals that were offered.

The report concludes that "hospitals must now ensure that quality improvement efforts and arrangements in place for meeting patients’ nutritional and hydration needs continue to improve.

"To achieve this, hospitals need effective nutrition steering committees that encourage and support improvements in screening patients for risk of malnutrition, develop evidence-based policies and audit nutrition and hydration care". 

Susan Cliffe, HIQA’s Head of Healthcare, said: “Every patient should be screened for risk of malnutrition within 24 hours of admission to hospital. Our review shows that only half of the 42 hospitals are doing this on more than 75% of wards. One in five hospitals has no system of screening for risk of malnutrition in any area of the hospital". 

Speaking to Newsalk Lunchtime, Ms Cliffe explained: "Our report shows that a significant percentage of patients were satisfied with the nutrition and hydration service they received".

She said that many patients in hospitals are in a vulnerable position and may not be willing to say something that reflects negatively the people taking care of them. However, she added: "Having said that, [and] having looked at the meal service that was being provided to the patients, and the staff interaction with the patients, we did find that the majority of patients were satisfied with the food they were receiving".

In 2014, chef Oliver Dunne told Newstalk Breakfast that Irish hospital food is not good enough to give to sick people.

Oliver - who earned a Michelin star for his work in Bon Appetit and Cleaver East - showed how a tasty and nuitritional dish could be served to patients for less than €2: