Nurses, dieticians and caterers at County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust have joined forces to launch a scheme to tackle poor nutrition on hospital wards.
The F4 – Focus on Food and Fluid First project, devised by the trust’s Nutrition and Hydration Improvement Team, will be trialled in two wards at Darlington Memorial Hospital.
It will see specially fortified foods and drinks, some of which will be used for the first time in a hospital, replace unpleasant-tasting oral nutritional supplements often prescribed to combat malnutrition.
Patients will also be offered nourishing, high calorie snacks in easy to eat portions designed to appeal to those with poor appetites.
Organisers say the approach will not only be more enjoyable for patients but also more cost effective.
They hope the new regime will help prevent frail patients losing more weight during their time in hospital and recover more quickly, cutting the overall length of hospital stays.
Patients will also get extra support at mealtimes thanks to a new volunteer scheme within the trust. Any member of staff can volunteer once a month to spend 45 minutes of their normal working day supporting patients at mealtimes. Friends and family will also be encouraged to visit during mealtimes.
The project features extra support once patients leave hospital including new information on nutrition, regular checks on those taking nutritional supplements, and “food parcels” of essentials like milk and bread for those returning home after a long stay.
All nurses and other frontline staff will get training on the new approach during 2014 and it will also form part of staff induction.
Mike Wright, the trust’s executive director of nursing, noted that patient nutrition was a major issue for the NHS.
“When most of us think of a weight-related public health crisis, obesity springs to mind. However under-nutrition is just as big a problem across the UK,” he told Nursing Times.
“It actually costs the NHS almost three times as much as obesity and needs to be taken seriously.
“The F4 project is the culmination of years of hard work and we’re expecting some fantastic results for our patients and service users. This is about improving patient care and their overall experience of that care.”
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