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Randomised controlled trial
The effectiveness of protected mealtimes in hospital remains unclear
  1. Adrienne Young1,2
  1. 1 Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2 School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Adrienne Young, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Level 2 Dr James Mayne Building, Butterfield St, Herston, Queensland 4029, Australia; adrienne.young{at}

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Commentary on: Porter J, Haines TP, Truby H. The efficacy of protected mealtimes in hospitalised patients: a stepped wedge cluster randomised controlled trial. BMC Med 2017;15:25.

Implications for practice and research

  • There remains no evidence to support that protected mealtimes improve outcomes for hospital patients, likely due to ineffective implementation.

  • In practice, a focus on ‘assisted mealtimes’ may be beneficial.

  • Future research is warranted and should include a carefully designed implementation and evaluation approach appropriate for complex interventions.

  • Researchers should involve patients/carers when designing trials to ensure inclusion of patient-centred outcomes.


It is well established that people eat poorly while in hospital. This is often blamed on the hospital food; however, inadequate dietary intake and consequent malnutrition (affecting 25%–30% of inpatients) is much more complex than it seems. Factors limiting intake includes those related to acute illness, hospital processes and mealtime environment. Protected mealtimes (PM; where non-urgent interruptions and …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.