Bid to raise nutrition standards
Published on 02 April 2013 12:30 PM
More than 3m people are at risk of malnutrition due to 'inadequate standards' in hospitals and care homes, a leading nutritionist has said.
Professor Marinos Elia said the condition continues to be under-detected and under-treated, especially in older people, even though it costs an estimated £13bn a year to deal with, and warned that the issue needs to be taken more seriously.
Currently, 29% of adults admitted to hospital, 18% in mental health units and 35% in care homes are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.
Raising standards of care
In the aftermath of the Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal, the Government has pledged to raise standards of care, including ensuring that all patients receive enough food and fluids.
Prof Elia, a consultant physician at Southampton General Hospital, has now set up 5 statements for nutritional best practice on behalf of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
The main improvement to standards of care will see details of a patient's nutritional needs transferred with them from service to service.
1.3m older people affected
Commenting on the work from Professor Elia, Michelle Mitchell, Age UK's Charity Director-General, said: 'It is estimated that 1.3m people aged over 65 suffer from malnutrition, which most of the time is preventable.
'Malnutrition in many older people, both in the community and in hospitals, is often left undetected.
'Health professionals and those in social care need to get better at spotting the signs and then making sure that a suitable care plan is put in place.
This will ensure those at risk of malnutrition do not slip through the gaps between services and get consistent treatment and support.'
Professor Elia confirmed the existence of these gaps: 'At present we have too many services settling for inadequate standards - the Care Quality Commission has recently confirmed that nearly a fifth of hospitals and nursing homes are not meeting at least one basic or essential standard in nutrition and hydration - and that is unacceptable.'
Challenge the system
Michelle Mitchell also urged people, whether patients, family or friends, to challenge assumptions around malnutrition and not to ignore the problem.
'People shouldn't assume that losing weight is automatically part of ageing. Equally, if people are struggling to cook meals or start to lose their appetite they should consider whether they need extra support or potentially medical advice.'
Copyright Press Association 2013