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Posted on 09 Jul 2020

Every year, patients are harmed or die after choking on or breathing in food, drink and medicines. This may be because they are really unwell and tired, are older or have a condition that makes swallowing difficult.

To help keep these patients safe, we have released guidance to make sure everyone – including doctors, nurses, food servers and families – knows when a patient is at risk, and what measures have been put in place.

Download our guidance.

Patients who have difficulty swallowing (called dysphagia) are usually put on a modified diet and/or are supervised while eating and drinking. But how this higher level of care is communicated and understood can vary.

Our guidance will help healthcare teams:

  • communicate specified higher-level care clearly, so it is understood by all staff as well as the patient, their family and carer
  • involve patients and the people who support them in decisions about their care
  • communicate modified foods and fluids and measures taken to reduce patient and environment risks
  • document the specified higher-level care.

To help implement the guidance, we have also developed:

  • a self-assessment tool that will help apply our guidance in your health service
  • a fact sheet which details key information for staff 
  • a fact sheet for patients and their family/carer to manage dysphagia while in hospital and on returning home.

Page last updated: 09 Jul 2020