3m affected by malnutrition10th February 2009
A report by the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN) has said the number of people in danger of, or suffering from, malnutrition in the UK is three million.
They warned that the issue costs the NHS £13 billion annually and said that GPs could "do more" to help solve the problem.
The BAPEN report examined previously conducted research on the prevalence of malnutrition in different places, including hospitals and care homes.
According to their estimates, 93% of those either at risk of malnutrition (or actually malnourished) lived at home or in sheltered accommodation. 5% lived in care homes and 3% in hospitals.
They identified older people as having the highest risk of malnutrition, with poverty and isolation also acting as important factors.
BAPEN's campaigns have resulted in improvements to the diet provided in hospitals and care homes.
BAPEN said GPs needed to work harder to address the problem. Under current guidance, GPs should complete the malnutrition screening checklist with someone who they think could be in danger of the condition.
However, BAPEN said GPs were not using this list enough and said the government needed to add incentives to the GP contract.
Professor Marinos Elia, one of the leaders of the report, said: "The evidence is clear and the time is right. The emphasis must now be on prevention and that means spotting it in the community."
Pamela Holmes, of Help the Aged, said: "Malnutrition in the community is drastically overlooked.
"Social workers, community nurses, GPs and other health professionals need to be educated and trained to spot and treat the signs of malnutrition."
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