Patients who eat and drink appropriately during their hospital stay make a faster and more successful recovery.
Since being set up five years ago, the trust has recruited a team of dedicated volunteers whose role is to help patients during mealtimes.
Their role includes serving patients at meal times, encouraging them to eat in a calm and sociable atmosphere and cutting up food when needed.
Elaine Ashwell has been volunteering in the gastroenterology ward at the University Hospital of North Tees since July.
She said: “I have volunteered for many years in a nursing home where was mum was cared for. I found it very rewarding and wanted to take on a new challenge where I could make a real difference.
“The mealtime companion role has been everything I hoped it would be. At the beginning, I received excellent training which has helped me feel fully prepared for the role.
“Now, under the guidance of staff, I am helping make a real difference. I am serving meals to patients at their bedside. I have the time, which staff don’t always have, to sit with patients and help them with anything they need, talking with them and playing board games.
“The role allows you to make such a difference to patient care.”
Jane Corbey, ward matron, said: “An increasing number patients need a little extra help, particularly at mealtimes.
“The support mealtime companions like Elaine provide is fantastic.
“Having someone to sit and chat to can make eating a much more pleasurable, social experience for patients, especially those who may be reluctant to eat or who take a long time to finish a meal.
“It has made a real difference to patient care in the ward.”