This blog was contributed by the Malnutrition Task Force.
Today malnutrition affects more than one million older people in the UK and the associated costs are estimated to be £13bn every year. The effects are profound and malnutrition increases the risk of falls, infections and delays recovery from illness and surgery.
In June 2012, an independent Malnutrition Task Force was established to tackle malnutrition in older people in hospitals, care homes and their own home. The Malnutrition Task Force includes representation from charities, professionals, NHS, commissioners and providers and is chaired by Age UK Chairman Dianne Jeffrey.
Many cases of malnutrition can be prevented and there are many examples of good practice across the UK. Focus on Undernutrition in County Durham is a community based project that raises awareness and helps to prevent, identify and manage people at risk of malnutrition in their own home, care homes and community hospitals. The training programme for all health and social care staff introduces simple tools for accurate assessment of malnutrition.
In Swindon, a series of nutritional screening education packages have been devised for staff in care homes and primary care. Working with Age UK Swindon they developed ‘befriender’ training which includes identifying malnutrition risk and practical ways to provide nutrition support. The team also produced a nutrition information booklet for carers.
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust identified that high standards of nutrition and hydration were vital factors in the prevention of harm from pressure ulcers, falls, infections and venous thromboembolism. They encouraged close collaboration between catering and clinical teams and developed interactive workshops to get wider groups of staff to engage in the changes. They also created a series of campaigns including Food4Thought, Nutrition Mission and Recipe for Success to raise awareness.
Hertfordshire Community Meals (HCM) is a social enterprise providing meals for older and disabled residents on behalf of the local authority. In 2011/12, a social return on investment analysis showed their activities resulted in immediate, tangible changes for clients including improved health, feeling happier, safer and more secure, increased independence, and longer-term gains such as staying out of residential care. Clients’ family and carers had an increased ability to work; more leisure time, less stress and improved relationships with their own family and with the person they care for. The analysis calculated that, for every pound invested, the social value created is at least £5.44.
Together, by implementing the right measures both at policy level and at the front line, we can tackle malnutrition.