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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Risk of malnourishment

30th August 2006

05052006_mealtime.jpgA survey by Age Concern has found that more than half of the older patients in Britain's hospitals suffer from malnutrition which may set back their recovery because nurses do not have time to help them eat.

The charity says that in its survey of 500 nurses, nine out of 10 said they did not always have time to help patients who needed help with eating and drinking

It claims that lives are being put at risk because of the problem, which it blames on lack of time available for hard-pushed nursing staff.  The survey shows that 60 per cent of older patients were at risk of becoming malnourished or seeing their health get worse. Those aged over 80 were particularly at risk, having a five times higher rate of malnutrition than the under-50s.

Many elderly or vulnerable patients, particularly those with Alzheimer's, memory loss or disabilities, need help with feeding, and there is also a problem with lack of supervision to help with this.

Caroline Flint, the health minister, conceded that "I am afraid to say there are still places, probably too many, where this still happens," adding: "There is no excuse for people coming into our hospitals not being fed properly." She said the Government had set in place guidelines which hospitals should follow to deal with the problem.

Age Concern's findings could be misinterpreted, Ms Flint said, because 40 per cent of elderly people being admitted into hospital were already malnourished. She encouraged Age Concern to share its findings with the Department of Health to identify hospitals where malnutrition was a problem.

The findings highlighted the serious consequences of under-staffing on hospital wards said the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

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