Registered Nursing Home Association

Nutrition and older people

National minimum standards

Section 3 of the national minimum standards that apply to care homes for older people stresses that the “availability, quality and presentation of food are crucial in ensuring that residents receive a wholesome, appealing and nutritious diet”.


Standard 15 relating to meals and mealtimes in care homes has nine specific requirements:

15.1 The registered person ensures that services users receive a varied, appealing, wholesome and nutritious diet which is suited to individuals’ assessed and recorded requirements, and that meals are taken in a congenial setting and at flexible times.
15.2 Each service user is offered three full meals a day (at least one of which must be cooked) at intervals of not more than five hours.
15.3 Hot and cold drinks and snacks are available at all times and offered regularly. A snack meal should be offered in the evening and the interval between this and breakfast the following morning should be no more than 12 hours.
15.4 Food, including liquefied meals, is presented in a manner which is attractive and appealing in terms of texture, flavour and appearance in order to maintain appetite and nutrition.
15.5 Special therapeutic diets/feeds are provided when advised by health care and dietetic staff, including adequate provision of calcium and vitamin D.
15.6 Religious or cultural dietary needs are catered for as agreed at admission and recorded in the care plan, and food for special occasions is available.
15.7 The registered person ensures that there is a menu (changed regularly) offering a choice of meals in written and other formats to suit the capacities of all service users, which is given, read or explained to service users.

15.8 The registered person ensures that mealtimes are unhurried, with service users being given sufficient time to eat.

15.9 Staff are ready to offer assistance in eating where possible, discreetly, sensitively and individually, while independent eating is encouraged for as long as possible.

Working to sustain recorded improvements 

Figures published by the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2006 showed that 83 per cent of the nursing homes inspected were meeting these standards, a 5 per cent increase over two years.  The RNHA believes it is important for care providers and regulators alike to focus on practical measures for sustaining this improvement.




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