Half of hospitalised Crohn's disease patients believe their recovery was hampered because of poor hospital food, a poll suggests.
Charity ForCrohns is calling for better hospital food for disease sufferers after a small survey of UK patients found that 46% believed their recoveries were "delayed or restricted" because of poor food.
The poll of 64 sufferers found that 57% believed that the food they were served while on the wards was "poor" or "awful".
And almost four fifths were forced to rely on family and friends to bring food to hospital for them.
The charity, which released the poll to coincide with World Inflammatory Bowel Disease Day, said that given the nature of the condition and treatments, food and diet can play a significant role in patients' recovery, particularly when reintroducing food following bowel surgery.
The condition, which is caused by inflammation of the lining of the digestive system, can lead to diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. Three quarters of the people with the condition, which affects one in every 1,000 people in the UK, will need bowel reconstructive surgery at some point in their lives.
Charity spokeswoman and Crohn's disease sufferer Sally Kellett said: "The food you eat when recovering in hospital has a direct impact on the speed of your recovery. When recuperating from surgery it is easy to lose a significant amount of weight very quickly. During my recovery, I always found the food choices to be particularly inappropriate for patients with Crohn's disease; many of the choices were full of fibre or too spicy.
"I passionately believe that hospital food needs to be improved to help patients recover. More importantly, more education and communication between medical staff and catering teams is required to ensure the food we are offered does not risk delaying our recovery."
ForCrohns has pledged its support to the Campaign for Better Hospital Food group which is calling on ministers to introduce mandatory nutritional standards for food served to patients in NHS hospitals in England.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "We want every patient to get good care - and that includes being given nutritious food. Hospitals should be doing all they can to ensure patients receive high quality food, but the best decisions on hospital food are those taken locally by chefs and catering managers rather than having centrally imposed standards. There are many fantastic examples of really good food across the NHS thanks to forward thinking and innovative staff."