Risks of fluid/food thickening powder: an alert from NHS England

RRV with blue lights

Dysphagia (swallowing problem) occurs in all care settings, and it’s estimated that up to 30% of people over 65-years-old are affected by it.

The modification of liquid thickness and food texture is common practice in dysphagia management to avoid aspiration of material into the airway whilst maintaining adequate hydration and nutrition. Thickening agents are available in a range of preparations, the most common being a powdered form, supplied in tubs and commonly kept in a place that is accessible such as at the bedside.

NHS England has issued a patient safety alert following an incident where a care home resident died following the accidental ingestion of the thickening powder that had been left within their reach. Whilst this death remains under investigation, it appears the powder formed a solid mass and caused fatal airway obstruction.

If you work on the frontline, please be aware the potential risks of this scenario; if you are worried about any incidents of inappropriate storage or see something that concerns you, please make a referral using single point of contact (SPOC) on 0845 602 6856.

Published 13th February 2015

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