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Protected mealtimes - helping our patients to eat their meals

What are protected mealtimes?

They are times set aside solely for patients to eat meals. There are specific times for breakfast, lunch and dinner, where all non-urgent activities on the ward will stop.

When are protected mealtimes?

Patients' protected mealtimes are:

  • Breakfast: 7.30 - 8.30am

  • Lunch: 12noon - 1pm

  • Dinner: 5 - 6pm

Why are they a good idea?

Patients prefer eating their meals with fewer distractions on the ward, and without interruptions. In addition, good nutrition and healthy eating is an important factor in helping patients recover from illness or injury.

What do they mean for staff on the ward?

Protected mealtimes allow nursing staff, healthcare assistants, therapists, volunteers, other ward staff and our caterers to focus on making sure patients receive their meals quickly and that patients who need help to eat get it. They also allow staff to monitor a patient's food intake to ensure they are eating and drinking the appropriate amounts of food and drink.

During protected mealtimes, nursing staff and therapists will:

  • prepare the ward for meals, including clearing away clutter and commodes;

  • ensure patients are positioned safely and comfortably for their meal;

  • make sure patients get the correct meal;

  • assist patients in opening packaging, cutting food and, where necessary, feed them and record their nutritional and fluid intake;

  • make sure red trays are used where indicated by a malnutrition universal screening tool (MUST) assessment.

During mealtimes, routine ward rounds will not take place and nursing staff will not perform routine medicine rounds. The washing of patients will stop too, as well as non-nutrition related therapy and the taking of blood.

How do protected mealtimes affect hospital staff?

All staff and volunteers are strongly discouraged from interrupting patients' mealtimes unless absolutely necessary and all non-ward-based clinical staff should leave the ward, unless they are involved in food delivery (e.g. SALT).

All non-essential clinical activity will cease, including patients leaving the ward for non-urgent investigations. However, all emergency treatments will still be carried out.

How do protected mealtimes affect visitors and carers?

During breakfast and lunch, visiting is restricted to those visitors and carers who are actively assisting patients with their meals.

Apart from the designated times for meals, is there any other period that patients and visitors should be aware of?

After lunch, there is a rest period from 1pm - 2pm. During this time, visiting will be restricted and clinical interaction with patients is kept to a minimum to allow patients to rest.

Thank you for your help and support

Together we can make sure that all our patients are given the appropriate help, and the required time, to eat - and enjoy - their meals uninterrupted. This is a key requirement for good nutrition, and will help them to recover more quickly.

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