INSPECTORS have criticised a Scottish hospital after finding that elderly patients were waiting up to 25 minutes before staff helped them eat and drink at meal-times.

A report by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) into care standards at the Western General in Edinburgh found there were delays of between 10 and 25 minutes from when meals were handed out to patients and nursing staff assisted them to eat and drink.

Inspectors also noted that many patients felt that their portions were too large and food was being wasted. They also reported that there was "no evidence of individualised care plans in place highlighting patients' eating and drinking likes and dislikes, dietary requirements and food allergies" and that not all patients were receiving nutritional risk assessments within 24 hours of admission. However, the HIS inspection also highlighted that patients were generally pleased with the quality of food available.

The report said: "We saw many examples of good practice with staff assisting patients to eat and drink in an encouraging, positive and unhurried manner."

There were individual examples of patients being left on their own with no help, while in another case a patient's meal was left on the over-bed table out of reach of the patient. There were also failings in relation to mental health, with inspectors reporting that "there is no bed management system in place to track the number of bed or ward moves for patients with dementia".

They also criticised an "inconsistent approach" to cognitive impairment screenings across the hospital, with "limited information" in care plans about the needs of individual patients with dementia or other mental health problems.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, said: "The SNP have cut 2000 nurses from the NHS. The fact that elderly patients are waiting 25 minutes for something as basic as taking their meal is highly concerning."

Melanie Hornett, Nurse Director for NHS Lothian, said she was pleased with the "many positive findings" of inspectors, but acknowledged there was room for improvement.