Patients on trolleys left at risk of dehydration
Some patients who are too sick or injured to leave their trolley in hospital emergency departments are suffering thirst and possible dehydration because staff are failing to bring them a glass of water.
The plight of some immobile patients, who are on trolleys for hours, waiting for a bed, was discovered by inspectors who made a series of unannounced hospital visits.
In five out of 10 of the emergency departments visited, patients who were not able to get off their trolley were not routinely offered drinks.
The revelation is made in the first independent probe of hospital meals by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).
Even moderate dehydration can cause headaches and dizziness, particularly for elderly people.
Susan Cliffe, Hiqa's head of healthcare, stressed that food should be seen as an integral part of a patient's treatment.
She said: "Malnutrition affects more than one in four patients admitted to hospital. Despite this, more than one in five public acute hospitals don't have a system of screening patients who are being admitted for malnutrition.
"Many patients experience unintentional weight loss of over 10pc of their body weight before admission and it can deteriorate while in hospital."
Ms Cliffe said while many hospitals were promoting and leading improvements, there were also serious failings.
In some hospitals, staff failed to tell patients of the choice of menu, even though three or four were available.