A review published by HIQA, the Health Information and Quality Authority, says nutritious food and access to drinking water are not viewed as a priority for some Irish hospitals.
HIQA also says malnutrition affects more than a quarter of patients admitted to hospitals.
HIQA has also found that lack of access to water affected patients in emergency departments.
HIQA analysed information from 42 hospitals.
It carried out unannounced inspections in 13 of these hospitals, spoke with 579 patients and 363 staff, and reviewed 322 patient healthcare records.
The HIQA review found malnutrition affects a quarter of patients admitted to hospital.
HIQA inspectors also found that drinking water was only topped up by staff during the day in most inspected hospitals if a jug was seen to be empty or at a patient’s request.
This mainly applied to patients in emergency departments.
In a number of emergency departments, patients who were not mobile and could not access the water cooler were not routinely being offered drinks.
Fewer than one in three hospitals inspected had a system to replenish water jugs with fresh water during the afternoon.
HIQA says access to drinking water should not depend on relatives and visitors.
And Susan Cliffe, HIQA’s Head of Healthcare, says food should be seen as an integral part of a patient’s treatment, rather than a ‘hotel service’ provided by the hospital.