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Malnutrition on the rise in British hospitals

Shocking new statistics have been revealed that show the growing scale of the problem of malnutrition in British hospitals. The figures emerged when Jonathan Ashworth, MP for Leicester South, asked Nicola Blackwood, the Secretary of State for Health, how many bed days in hospitals were for people with a primary and a secondary diagnosis of malnutrition in each of the last 10 years. The results show a steady increase from 65,048 in 2006-7 to 184,528 in 2015-16.

The release of these statistics followed a report from the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) that the number of councils providing meals on wheels to vulnerable older people has fallen below 50% for the first time. These cutbacks are being named as one of the contributing factors to the rise in the number of patients with malnutrition occupying hospital beds. A lack of a cohesive and integrated approach to care is leading to this counter-productive trend whereby the local council cuts a meals on wheels service which costs, on average, £4.30 a day for a two-course meal, whilst the cost of keeping someone in hospital costs the NHS an estimated £400 per day.

Commenting on the statistics, Phil Shelley, Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) National Chair says: “Malnutrition is a hidden epidemic. These new statistics prove the scale of the problem, which has been putting unprecedented pressure on hospital caterers in recent years. Malnutrition is preventable, and professional community services should be given the resources to help identify cases of malnutrition before hospital admission occurs.

"Once in hospital, our members and indeed all hospital caterers work extremely hard, in tandem with their colleagues in dietetics and nursing, to support the individual needs of those suffering. Often a speciality diet with an energy dense menu will need to be put in place to help patients recover. With malnutrition, food really is the medicine and hospital caterers can provide lif- enhancing solutions.

"Malnutrition is a complex issue and hospital recovery can be extremely lengthy with some stays requiring nearly a month, placing even more pressure on hospital bed space and staff.  It is shocking that malnutrition is both so prevalent, and so extreme that it requires hospital admission in the 21st century. The HCA backs our colleagues in asking for more resources be directed to tackling the prevention of malnutrition before hospital admission.”