Belfast Telegraph

Scandal of hospital food lapses revealed by report

By Lisa Smyth

A new report looking at nutritional standards in Northern Ireland hospitals has found startling lapses which are putting the most vulnerable patients at risk.

A survey carried out by the |Patient and Client Council |(PCC) has uncovered numerous |examples of people missing out on meals because staff are too busy to help them eat, food is |left out of the reach of elderly |and frail patients and even |accusations of abuse.

Patients and their families have spoken of a series of failings in hospitals across Northern Ireland — including meals being served cold, blind patients going hungry because nobody tells them their meal is on front of them and trays being left out of reach of patients.

Deputy chair of the Stormont Health Committee, Michelle O’Neill, said the issue must be |urgently addressed.

She said: “These findings are extremely alarming. Providing good, nutritious food and ensuring |patients are able to eat it is a basic part of good patient care.

“The PCC was set up as the voice of the patient and if this is what they are telling us is happening then we need to listen.”

Although many people who responded to the survey said they believed staff were too busy to help patients, the report also highlighted serious cases of neglect.

Some said that “staff seemed careless and unconcerned about what happened at meal times”.

In one of the most startling |examples, one person said: “There was an elderly lady opposite who had just had her hip replaced |but six weeks previously had |just buried her husband of some 50-odd years.

“The lady was deemed as not wanting to eat but in reality she couldn’t stretch to the table, which was at the foot of the bed.

“Instead of bringing it closer to her and helping her with her meal, the staff just took the |food away and shouted at her: |‘You’re going to have to eat at some stage’.

“This made the lady extremely upset.

“It came to the stage that either my father or I were always around at lunch or dinner time, not to help out my mother, but to help this old lady.”

There were also claims that staff were simply failing to carry out their duty

One person said: “There is a feeling that some nurses felt above doing things like mashing up a patient’s food, even if it is the only way a patient can eat.”

Another respondent called for a more commonsense approach from hospital staff: “It doesn’t require a university degree to realise that a person who can’t move their arms will have difficulty feeding themselves.”

Patients also raised concerns that they missed meals because they were undergoing tests or being reviewed by a doctor during set meal times.

One person said: “I received an apology and some toast.”

The PCC has made a series of recommendations to address the|issues raised by patients.

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