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NHS has to adopt IDDSI standards by April 2019

NHS Improvement has issued a patient safety alert to eliminate use of the imprecise term ‘soft diet’ and assist providers with safe transition to the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) framework, which introduces standard terminology to describe texture modification for food and drink.


The BBC has today (June 27), reported on the death of two patients and "significant harm" caused to seven others who were served inappropriate texture-modified food for their condition. It says "the regulator received reports of hash browns, mince and sponge cake being fed to patients in England who were supposed to be on liquidised food." 


The term 'soft diet' is confusing. Incidents of harm reported include patients choking and requiring an emergency team response, and aspiration pneumonia. Around 270 incidents of no harm or low harm, such as coughing or a brief choking episode, have been reported.


The alert says that transition from the current range of food and drink texture descriptors to IDDSI framework for people with dysphagia needs careful local planning to ensure it happens as soon and as safely as possible. This process should begin immediately for all organisations providing NHS funded-care for patients who need a texture-modified diet. It should be completed by April 1, 2019.


The alert is available here and contains links to further resources.


Commenting on the BBC's report, Stewart McKenzie, National Chairman of The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) confirms the association's backing for the implementation of the new IDDSI standards. 


“The Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) has been represented on the UK IDDSI (International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative) Expert Reference Group since its inception in 2016. We believe that having precise terminology for the classification of food textures is essential to stop inappropriate foods or liquids being given to patients with swallowing difficulties. 


"As an association we will continue to work hard with speech and language therapists, dietitians and caterers to ensure that the IDDSI standards are well advertised and adopted across the NHS, allowing patients to be fed safely and correctly according to their individual needs.”