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New approach to hospital food

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The Government is enforcing new standards for hospitals about the food they serve to patients.

The new standards, to be enforced through legally-binding NHS contracts, will focus on quality, choice and promoting a healthy diet for patients and staff.

While there is nothing specific in the plans about diabetes, Diabetes UK hopes that a renewed focus on food will also help improve hospital treatment of people with diabetes. This is because for people with diabetes the timely provision of suitable food is an essential aspect of the management of the condition is the timely provision of suitable food.

According to the latest National Diabetes Audit, over a quarter of inpatients with diabetes reported that the hospital did not provide the right type of food to manage their diabetes. As well as this, 19.5 per cent of inpatients reported that the meal choice was sometimes suitable and one in five inpatients said that timing of meals had not been suitable.

Of the inpatients that reported that the choice of meals was rarely or never suitable for the management of their diabetes, nearly a quarter had one or more hypos (where their blood glucose level falls dangerously low) during their hospital stay. Preventable hypos are a big issue for people with diabetes in hospital and the type of food – and the timing of meals – is part of the reason for this.

Libby Dowling, Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK, said: “At any one time, people with diabetes account for around 15.8 per cent or about one in seven of all inpatients being cared for in hospitals in England. Providing nutritious and palatable food at the right time is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people with diabetes who need it to manage their blood glucose level.

“We know that people in hospital who have diabetes tend to stay three days longer in hospital compared to people without diabetes. Food is only part of the reason for this, and there are also issues around things like medication errors and lack of specialist care, but it is a vital part of the care package that needs to be addressed. We hope that the spotlight on hospital food at the moment leads to hospitals giving more focus on inpatient care for people with diabetes than they do at the moment.”

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