Almost a third of nurses are not confident that a malnourished relative would be spotted if admitted to hospital, a survey by charity Age UK has found.
Of the 1,000 NHS hospital nurses who took part, less than half said their hospital screened older patients often enough for malnutrition and only a third said patients were routinely screened for malnutrition when admitted. Just 5 per cent said older patients were screened for malnutrition on discharge.
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The survey marked the launch of Age UK’s report into malnutrition among older people in hospital, Still Hungry to be Heard, which follows the campaigning report Hungry to be Heard, published four years ago.
The charity described it as “a national disgrace” that around 180,000 patients a year were discharged with malnutrition from English hospitals and has called on the government to introduce compulsory recording of malnutrition rates.
Age UK is also demanding that ward staff are trained in screening techniques, and wants the Care Quality Commission to undertake a comprehensive review of how hospital mealtimes are organised.
Keeping nourished - getting better, is one of the eight high impact actions for nursing and midwifery produced by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement to tackle malnutrition in hospitals. It recommends screening for malnutrition in all hospitals, as well as measuring and recording malnutrition locally.
Age UK head of campaigns Ray Mitchell told Nursing Times that although input from government and the CQC was needed, the type of work outlined in the high impact action would be key to reducing malnutrition levels.
“What we discovered was that good practice often starts with ward nurses who see that a problem with malnutrition needs addressing,” he said.
“Where we found protected mealtimes operating well, for instance, it was often nurses championing it that had helped build that in at some hospitals”.
He said nurses often wanted to screen patients, but had told Age UK they could not due to a lack of training and time, and other tasks having a higher priority.
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