14/03/2019 | Press releases

Staff hold afternoon tea with a difference to promote patients’ swallowing difficulties

Colchester Hospital held an afternoon tea with a difference to highlight the difficulties and life-threatening consequences faced by people who struggle to swallow.


While most people take their ability to eat and drink for granted, those with dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) can encounter a range of medical issues including choking, dehydration, malnutrition and weight loss. They are also extremely vulnerable to pneumonia and chest infections without the right care, while taking medication and controlling their saliva can contribute to a poorer quality of life.

To recognise Swallow Awareness Day 2019 – which is part of this week’s Nutrition and Hydration Week – a selection of treats were served up on the daily ward tea round by the hospital’s speech and language team and dietitians. The treats were in a variety of textures and blends, giving people that can eat normally an insight into how people with dysphagia deal with meal times and snacks.


Ruth Myers is the clinical and professional lead for speech and language therapy at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs Colchester Hospital. Ruth said:


Eating and drinking can be a source of enjoyment and we often celebrate occasions with food and drink such as an afternoon tea, or a dining experience at a restaurant.


Many of the people I see with swallowing problems tell me that their enjoyment of food and drink can be altered and they may avoid social situations due to fear or embarrassment around their difficulties, resulting in social isolation.


Dysphagia affects people with a range of conditions, including 68% of people with dementia in care homes, 50-60 % of head and neck cancer survivors, 65% of people who have had a stroke and 27% of those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).


It can also affect acutely hospitalised older people and those with learning disabilities, Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and many others. 


Speech and language therapists can offer support to those affected with dysphagia to eat, drink and swallow more safely.


They can assess swallowing, diagnose dysphagia, make recommendations about safe consistencies, or support with exercises, postures and other rehabilitation.


A range of activities have been taking place across ESNEFT to mark Nutrition and Hydration week with the Colchester Hospital team hosting a daily information stand and a number of food-related activities.


You can find out what’s been happening at Ipswich Hospital here https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/swallow-awareness-day-ipswich-hospital-1-5933349

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