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Malnutrition (3 Million) In UK

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 Malnutrition (3 Million) In UK

Startling evidence from the BBC (10 02 09) relating to the many people in the UK that are suffering from what some may consider Draconian malnutrition.

According to the report which offers the clearest idea yet of the depth and scale of the problem. Included in the count were both hospitals and care homes.

Moreover, The British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN) have suggested that the condition is costing inexcess of £13bn a year to treat and they have asked GP’s to do more.

The report by BAPEN has looked at previous studies relating to the extent and scale of malnutrition particularly from a range of settings including hospitals and mental health units to sheltered housing and care homes.

With reference to the research carried out, there are over 3m at risk or suffering malnutrition. Furthermore, 93% were living at home or in sheltered accomodation, 5% were in care homes and 3% in hospitals and other NHS settings.

Thus, it can be safely argued that we as a nation and particularly at government level, spending tax payers money, do not look after our most vulnerable members of our society and that is very damming prospect.

In addition it has been said that our elderly population with long-term conditions, were most at risk from malnutrition. Isolation and poverty were other key components adding to the problem.

Notably, BAPEN and other charities have campaigned in terms of nutrition over a period of years. Thus we can also deduce that the plight of the vulnerable is currently being deliberately ignored.

Pressure is now being put on to GP’s. Under guidelines issued, they are meant to utilise the official malnutrition screening checklist, which measures weight, height and any recent weight loss to give a malnutrition risk score, when they believe someone might be at risk.

To date the association claim that this is not being carried out routinely and GP’s will need more incentives in their contracts.

Hitherto, the report highlights the health cost of the problem which exceeds over £13bn, and this is twice as high as previously expected.

The practical aspects also need some consideration from the view point that malnourished people are more likely to stay in hospital longer. They are also more likely to sucumb to infection and will geerally need to see their GP’s more often than their counterparts.

With reference to Professor Marinos Elia, one of the lead authors of the report and a former chair of BAPEN, 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.”

Equally, the profesor indicates that pharmacists also have their role to play in the community. Furthermore, transport planners could do more to ensure people had good links to supermarkets.

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.”

Professor Steve Field, of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It is a very important issue, but I think it is something GPs are already taking seriously.

“We routinely weigh and measure patients so I don’t think it is necessary to change the GP contract.”

The government respons is of no surprise. A spokespertson for the department has said, “The Department recognises that good diet and nutrition are important for everyone.

“Sustained investment in tackling health inequalities has paid off. Life expectancy in England is the highest it has ever been, including in disadvantaged areas.

“We are committed to reducing health inequalities further, and have put in place the most comprehensive programme ever in this country to address them.”

She also pointed out the Nutrition Action Plan published in Autumn 2007 specifically aimed to address the issue of malnutrition in care homes and hospitals by encouraging screening and staff training as well as issuing guidance.

One could question how far does the government go, in so much as measuring levels of success?

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