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Rise in malnutrition on NHS wards

The number of patients starving on NHS wards has doubled in just two years, according to new figures.

Figures obtained by the Conservatives show the number of serious incidents relating to poor nutritional care has almost doubled.

The number of incidents, reported anonymously, has risen from 15,473 in 2005 to 29,138 in 2007.

Figures also show huge regional variation, with numbers in the North East rising from 389 in 2005 to as many as 1,353 in 2007.

In total almost 70,000 patient incidents relating to nutrition were reported between 2005 and 2007.

The figures were obtained by Shadow Health Minister Stephen O’Brien through a Parliamentary Question and show the number of nutrition-related patient safety incidents reported to the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA).

The NPSA defines a patient safety incident as ‘any unintended or unexpected incident which could have or did lead to harm for one or more patients receiving NHS care.’

In a Nutritional Screening Structured Investigation Report by the NPSA in 2007 reasons for poor nutritional care included a lack of equipment - in particular weighing scales, poor leadership and a lack of education and training for staff.

Readers' comments (4)

  • i feel that nurses dont see nutrition as an important part of patients recovery.i had patient admitted to my ward yesterday who had been in an acute ward for 6 weeeks and was a high risk on must score yet she had only been weighed prior to transfer ,no nutritional supplements started.i find this very common .the differnce in older adult ward ,screened on admission, weekly therafter ,until no risks identified then monthly.it needs to be taught more during training

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  • I feel that one of the issues is that there is not enough staff working during the shifts. Even though meal times are protected in the trust that i am on placement for.....which i feel works very well however, assessment tools do seemed to get over looked particulary the reviews and follow ups . This is not done deliberately and I am in no way passing blame, but the staff nurses can only do so much during their shifts. More staff may help this matter.

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  • i agree whoheartedly that all patients should have a nutritional assessment and monitoring. i do believe though, that the route cause of the risk should be looked at more closely and interventions should be based on manageing this risk rather than prescribing supplements. frequently the patients will not take the supplements and at the end of the day if a patient refuses to eat we are limited to what we can do

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  • As a member of the acute SALT team I find that I am unable to my job as well as I would like due to the lack of nurses around on the wards especially at lunchtime. I do also find however that the handovers that nurses give at the end of shifts often omit any reference to swallowing recommendations. Patients often don't eat their meals as they are unable to feed themselves and there are just not enough trained staff to help them. When a patient has been put on a puree diet they often require encouragement as they just don't like it! Who can blame them - but, my point is if a nurse does not sit with that patient and encourage them , the food goes cold and the patient is even more unlikely to eat it. The other thing is that the ensures and other supplements are sweet and sickly which most of my golden oldies do not like.

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