To read this content please select one of the options below:

Food and drink – the basic requirements of life

Monica Dennis (Based at A Dignified Revolution, Cowbridge, UK)
Judith Allen (Based at A Dignified Revolution, Cowbridge, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 17 June 2011




This paper seeks to describe the experiences of people visiting elderly relatives in hospital, detailing the lack of care and negligent attitudes of nursing staff with regards to providing appropriate food and drink to the elderly patients.


This paper analyses responses from 94 concerned readers, who empathised with an article published in the Daily Mail detailing negligent, unprofessional and uncaring practice in an elderly relative's hospital care. They each wrote to A Dignified Revolution (ADR) and provided their own examples of either being a patient in hospital or witnessing their loved one's distress. This paper addresses one of the most common areas of concern: the management of hydration and nutrition.


The vast majority of the criticisms in the e‐mail correspondence that was received by ADR was directed towards severe deficits in nursing practice. The experiences that were shared demonstrated not only a contravention of the nurse's code of practice (Nursing and Midwifery Council), but also an abuse of older people's human rights. They also demonstrated not only the severe harm that could be caused to vulnerable older people and the trauma caused to relatives but also carers. Many respondents were dismayed at the complete lack of nursing assessments and the inconsistencies in the documentation about their relatives' care, including food and fluid charts, which was so fundamental to their care needs.


Older vulnerable people in National Health Service (NHS) hospitals are being deprived of the fundamental right to eat and drink, a right whereby the lack of nutrition and hydration causes not only untold suffering, but can cause death. To deprive a person of food and fluid is tantamount to abuse, and to be able to eat and drink is a basic human right. However, perhaps the challenge is greater than this with regard to older people. Perhaps, a significant cultural change in attitudes and behaviour towards older people by the NHS, if not the wider society, is required in the first instance.



Dennis, M. and Allen, J. (2011), "Food and drink – the basic requirements of life", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 167-173.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles