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Principle A

Good nutrition and hydration management is a challenge for all staff and managers, but it is absolutely central to the provision of good care. Meal times are an opportunity for you to demonstrate you respect a patients' dignity.

The Royal College of Nursing defines dignity as being:

"… concerned with how people feel, think and behave in relation to the worth or value of themselves and others. To treat someone with dignity is to treat them as being of worth, in a way that is respectful of them as valued individuals". (1)

In care situations, dignity may be promoted or diminished by:

  • the physical environment
  • organisational culture
  • the attitudes and behaviour of the nursing team and others
  • the way in which care activities are carried out.

A patient's dignity is particularly at risk in situations involving nutritionas has been highlighted by regulators and patient advocate groups (2,3).

To provide dignity in care, you need to: (4)

  • respect patients' and clients' diversity and cultural needs; their privacy - including protecting it as much as possible in large, open-plan hospital wards; and the decisions they make
  • be compassionate when a patient or client and/or their relatives need emotional support, rather than just delivering technical nursing care
  • demonstrate sensitivity to patients' and clients' needs, ensuring their comfort. 


These resources were last accessed on 7 December 2015.

  1. RCN (2008) Dignity - RCN definition of dignity. RCN website.
  2. Age UK (2011) Malnutrition in hospital: Still hungry to be heard. Age UK website.
  3. Care Quality Commission (2011) Dignity and nutrition inspection programme: national review. London: CQC.

RCN (2010) Principles of Nursing Practice. RCN.

Page last updated - 03/08/2019