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Monday, 23 November 2015

Malnutrition causing thousands of hospital admissions

More than 2,000 cases of patients with malnutrition were recorded by 43 hospital trusts in a single year.

There were 193 "episodes" of malnutrition in 12 months at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust alone, according to new figures.

Freedom of Information (FOI) figures show a rise of 259 between the 43 trusts compared with three years ago.

A food bank charity said it feared families were struggling to afford to feed themselves.

The government said that malnutrition was "unacceptable".

Meanwhile, there are warnings that parents are going without food so their children do not go hungry.

'Thousands' at risk

The figures were revealed as Tameside Hospital, also in Greater Manchester, became the first NHS hospital in the UK to set up a permanent food bank on site.

Medical staff reported a significant increase in the number of malnourished patients turning up for treatment and care.

Trisha Jarman from Tameside East food bank said: "There are a lot of people out there that are malnourished.

"It's not just people coming into hospital, it's across the board. People are struggling to feed themselves and their families, particularly at this time of the year."

NHS bosses in Salford have warned that thousands of people in the city, which is included in a pilot scheme aimed at tackling the problem, may be struggling.

Kirstine Farrer, head of innovation and research at Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "A report by the BAPEN (British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition) in 2013 suggested that of Salford's population of 35,000 aged 65 years or older, 14 per cent - or almost 5,000 people - may be at risk of malnutrition."

She said health services were working with the community to raise awareness and prevent people going hungry.

'Missing meals'

The figures were revealed following an FOI request by Birmingham City University student Eiryo Saeki to NHS foundation trusts, of which 43 responded.

Hospitals were asked to provide numbers of patients who had been in hospital with symptoms of malnutrition such as Kwashiorkor, a swelling under the skin often found in countries where there is famine or a limited food supply.

Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust said its figures related to "episodes" of malnutrition, and could include patients being counted more than once if they were transferred between consultants.

The figures also showed that Birmingham Children's Hospital reported 31 instances of malnutrition last year, almost double the number for 2013.

Thousands treated for malnutrition

NHS Foundation Trusts that saw the most cases

Charity The Trussell Trust said between 31 March and 1 April 2015 food banks in Greater Manchester fed 16,083 people, of whom 6,206 were children.

Chairman Chris Mould said: "Our food banks see tens of thousands of people who have been going hungry, missing meals and cutting back on the quality of the food they buy.

"We meet families across the UK who are struggling to put enough food on the table, and at the extreme end of that you get people who are malnourished.

"We often see parents who are going without food so that they can feed their children, and these parents often struggle to afford enough nutritious food for their children too."

He said the Trust did not believe anyone should have to go hungry in the UK, and was working with the public, charities and politicians to "find solutions to the underlying causes of food poverty".


The figures do not break down the ages of the patients but the charity Age UK is concerned about malnutrition in older people.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: "In a civilised society people should not be suffering from malnutrition - these figures are shocking.

"Malnutrition in 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 to ensure those at risk of malnutrition do not slip through the gaps between services and get consistent treatment and support.

"Eating and drinking well is critical when it comes to staying healthy and independent, yet this can become more difficult as we get older.

"It is also important that older people, along with their friends, family and health care professionals, challenge assumptions around malnutrition and don't ignore the problem.

"For example, people shouldn't assume that losing weight is automatically part of ageing."

'Damage done'

In Tameside, the hospital's chief executive, Karen James, said staff had noticed patients are "often coming through malnourished" and when talking to patients "we find out that they are suffering and there is a need".

She said people were making choices about whether to pay a bill or feed the family.

Three food collection points have been set up at the hospital, with donations delivered to a central warehouse.

Natalie Welsh, a nutrition specialist nurse at Tameside, said: "It's really important that these people are highlighted in our community because quite often by the time they come through our doors and need to be admitted, the damage is already done.

"It can take us a long time to get them to recover from illness and disability because of the malnutrition they have suffered."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Malnutrition is unacceptable. Though the rising figures we have seen may well be in part due to better diagnosis and detection, even more action is required.

"That is why we have ensured that everyone over the age of 40 can have a free NHS health check to spot the warning signs of poor nutrition, and have provided £500k funding to Age UK to reduce malnutrition among older people."



Anonymous said...

This is quite shocking. Should it be like this in 2015?

Galina L. said...

I can't believe that the people who live in a Western society can't buy enough cheap meats, eggs, basic vegetables, some butter to keep them from being nourished. I have an opportunity to observe how straggling people live. Most of them just don't have time to cook and think about the quality of their food because they work two jobs. Some of them even smoke - they need some quick way to relax, and their stress level prevents them from controlling impulses.

Lowcarb team member said...

Many thanks to Anonymous 00.10

Many thanks to Galina

Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.
We have read many articles which have highlighted the struggle many have in the Western World. While some have so much money and are throwing food away, others do not have enough. Is there an easy answer, I wonder?

Many do give donations to food banks, which does help.
If living on a budget there are cheaper cuts of meat available, eggs are also another good nutritious item. Although free range are best, it doesn't have to be. Buy what you can afford.
Perhaps families could help each other out more, although this is not always possible.

With Christmas coming many will be struggling. Although not food related, many schools start to collect for others who may not receive Xmas gifts. For some a warm jumper and scarf may be more beneficial.
Perhaps those who do have more could take time to think of others who are less fortunate.
A magic wand cannot be waved - but awareness to the problem certainly needs to be raised.

All the best Jan

Galina L. said...

When I came to live in US I was surprised to find how many people struggled to survive. There are a lot of population tied in a low-wages jobs for life. Look at the ones who work in a fast-food places. They are payed minimal wage and all work in part-time positions because full-time workers should be given benefits. People who work in stores are all in the same situation, they have to hold more than one job and often suffer from a time deficit even more than from a money deficit, so thoughts about a nutrition are a luxury. In order to create a wealth on the top of a pyramid thous who are situated in a base have to live in a poverty. When I put some items to donate in a special container in a store, there are mostly foods low in a nutrition there like boxed cereals, peanut butter, pasta, cookies.
In US one can buy meat as chicken legs very cheaply, slightly more than one dollar for a pound Right now there are sales on turkey 59 - 70 cents for a pound. I guess the people who produced so cheap foods were underpayed as well.

chris c said...

The horrible irony is that it is possible to overeat and still be malnourished. See hospital food as an example, carb sandwiches on toast with cow carbs washed down with orange juice (as a diabetic described her menu)

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