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Malnutrition 'affects wide range of patients'

Malnutrition is often associated with older generations of patients, but it is also a problem for around a quarter of the 20-29-year-olds admitted to hospital, according to a report.

BAPEN’s fourth annual Nutritional Screening Week (NSW) report shows that 26% of people in this age group were affected with the diet-related problem.

Results revealed that although the overall prevalence of malnutrition has lessened, it still affects 25% of adults admitted to hospitals, up to 20% of those admitted to mental health units and more than a third of adults going into care homes.

The findings demonstrate that malnutrition is common on admission to acute and community hospitals, on all types of wards, across a variety of age groups and diagnostic categories. With this in mind, the report highlights the need for an integrated strategy to detect, stop and treat malnutrition in all care settings, not just hospitals.

Other findings published in the report also showed that the prevalence of malnutrition increases with age and happens more frequently among women than men. The report also revealed that malnutrition is more likely in nursing homes than it is in residential homes.

Most of the UK patients screened had a high risk of malnutrition (18%) compared to the 7% at medium risk. Alongside these findings, the report also listed a number of recommendations to improve the rates of malnutrition:

  • Patients or residents admitted to all institutional care settings should be screened using a validated screening tool such as ‘MUST’ and repeat measurements made at intervals according to care settings, using accurate and reliable instruments. Scales on all wards and in all care settings should be calibrated annually.
  • Staff involved in nutritional screening should be trained and be competent to undertake screening and implement care plans.
  • The results of nutritional screening should be linked to care plans, which may vary according to local resources and policies.
  • Nutritional information relating to subjects identified as malnourished should be included in communications on discharge from hospital and mental health units.
  • Access to nutrition advice and nutrition support teams should be available in all care settings.
  • The practice of nutritional screening should be audited regularly. Consistent strategies to detect, prevent and treat malnutrition should be in place in all care settings, including the community, where most malnutrition originates.

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