Hospital inpatients’ experiences of access to food: a qualitative interview and observational study.

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Hospital inpatients' experiences of access to food: a qualitative interview and observational study.

Health Expect. 2008 Sep;11(3):294-303

Authors: Naithani S, Whelan K, Thomas J, Gulliford MC, Morgan M

BACKGROUND: Hospital surveys indicate that overall patients are satisfied with hospital food. However undernutrition is common and associated with a number of negative clinical outcomes. There is little information regarding food access from the patients' perspective. PURPOSE: To examine in-patients' experiences of access to food in hospitals. METHODS: Qualitative semi-structured interviews with 48 patients from eight acute wards in two London teaching hospitals. Responses were coded and analysed thematically using NVivo. RESULTS: Most patients were satisfied with the quality of the meals, which met their expectations. Almost half of the patients reported feeling hungry during their stay and identified a variety of difficulties in accessing food. These were categorized as: organizational barriers (e.g. unsuitable serving times, menus not enabling informed decision about what food met their needs, inflexible ordering systems); physical barriers (not in a comfortable position to eat, food out of reach, utensils or packaging presenting difficulties for eating); and environmental factors (e.g. staff interrupting during mealtimes, disruptive and noisy behaviour of other patients, repetitive sounds or unpleasant smells). Surgical and elderly patients and those with physical disabilities experienced greatest difficulty accessing food, whereas younger patients were more concerned about choice, timing and the delivery of food. CONCLUSIONS: Hospital in-patients often experienced feeling hungry and having difficulty accessing food. These problems generally remain hidden because staff fail to notice and because patients are reluctant to request assistance.

PMID: 18816325 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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