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Key messages

Patients who have difficulty swallowing (called dysphagia) can be at risk of choking or breathing in food, drink and medicines while they are in hospital.

Swallowing problems that are not managed well can also lead to poorer health outcomes associated with malnutrition and dehydration.

We have produced guidance and supporting resources for health services and clinicians on how to best communicate requirements to ensure patients are safe when eating and drinking.

We have developed guidance to help everyone – including doctors, nurses and allied health staff, staff involved in food and drink provision and visiting family and friends – understand when a patient is on a modified diet and needs supervision as a safety requirement.

This document also helps patients, their family and carers get involved in decisions about the management of their dysphagia.

Download our guidance

Change package

Our guidance also includes tools for health services and clinicians to safely and confidently manage patients with swallowing problems:

  • a self-assessment tool  that lists the actions to consider when applying our guidance in your organisation
  • a fact sheet for staff which details key information for staff which can be quickly adapted for your use
  • a fact sheet for patients and their family/carer to manage dysphagia while in hospital and on returning home.  


Choking on and inhaling food, drink and medicines have led to patient deaths in Victorian health services. Our expert working group reviewed these events and critically evaluated the systems and processes used in Victorian hospitals.

The change package aims to support health services and clinicians to safely and confidently manage patients with swallowing problems (dysphagia) for whom supervision while eating or drinking is a necessity for their safety.

Page last updated: 16 Nov 2020

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