More than half of the older patients in UK hospitals suffer from malnutrition which may set back their recovery because nurses do not have time to help them eat, campaigners have warned.
In a survey of 500 nurses, by Age Concern, nine out of 10 admitted they did not always have time to help patients who needed help with eating and drinking.
The survey also claims that 60% of older patients - who occupy two-thirds of general hospital beds - were at risk of becoming malnourished or seeing their health get worse.
Those aged over 80 were particularly at risk, having a five times higher rate of malnutrition than the under-50s, according to the charity.
Health Minister, Caroline Flint, admitted today that "some people are not getting the service they deserve" - but said that the Government had set in place guidelines which hospitals should follow to deal with the problem.
Flint also suggested that Age Concern's findings could be misinterpreted because 40% of elderly people being admitted into hospital were already malnourished.
She urged Age Concern to share its findings with the Department of Health to identify hospitals where malnutrition was a problem.
By Daniel Thomas