The Healthcare Commission has called on the NHS to look again at how it respects patient dignity, in relation to hospital food, help with eating and mixed-sex wards.

The watchdog's annual patient survey, published yesterday, highlights 'considerable variation' in the performance of acute trusts on a range of issues relating to dignity in care, including the standard of food, mixed-sex accommodation, answering calls for help, and assistance with eating.

The survey found 11 per cent of patients admitted to hospital, excluding those in critical care units, said that they had shared a room or bay with a patient of the opposite sex.

In 30 trusts at least one in five patients rated the food as 'poor' and of the patients in the survey who indicated that they needed help eating, 20 per cent said they did not get enough.

Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said: 'The results suggest we need a fresh drive to tackle a set of issues related to treating patients with dignity. But it seems that a minority of trusts are letting the rest down.'

'It is also clear that for a significant minority of patients, the NHS is performing below standard on segregated accommodation.'

The findings of the survey will be included in the Healthcare Commission's annual assessment.