The Department of Health has increased the number of unannounced inspections by the care watchdog, saying it is “unacceptable” for patients to go hungry or be malnourished in hospitals.

The announcement was made after it was reported that 1,165 people have died from starvation in NHS hospitals over the last four years, according to Office for National Statistics figures. Figures from death certificates show many patients die from malnutrition and signficantly more from dehydration.

In 2011, 43 patients starved to death and 291 died in a state of severe malnutrition, the Sunday Express said, while the number of patients discharged from hospital suffering from malnutrition doubled to 5,558.

Dianne Jeffrey, chairwoman of Malnutrition Task Force, condemned the statistics. She told the newspaper: “Too many are paying the price with their lives while being deprived of the basic right to good nutrition, hydration and support.”

A department spokeswoman said: “Every NHS patient should expect to be looked after properly in hospital. It is completely unacceptable if patients go hungry or are malnourished.

“To help make sure patients get the right care - and to root out bad practice - the Care Quality Commission has increased the number of unannounced inspections that it undertakes, and soon it will publish its findings from a series of inspections looking specifically at dignity and nutrition.

“We are also investing £100 million on IT so nurses can spend more time with patients, not paperwork. That means nursing rounds where senior nurses will have more time to check that patients are comfortable, are helped to eat and drink, and are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”