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Hospital seeking to replace supplements with fortified foods


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.

Mike Wright

County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust executive director of nursing Mike Wright with patient Denis Costello

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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Readers' comments (2)

  • It is good to know that some hospitals are taking nutrition and hydration seriously!
    Being a nurse and having spent several months in hospital over the past 2 years; I can tell you that nutrition and hydration usually depends on other patients and visitors bringing food in.
    I voiced concerns about the food served because after 4 days in hospital, apart from 3 sprouts!, I was given no other fruits or vegetables apart from potatoes!
    I was then given, after complaining to a qualified member of staff about this, an orange for breakfast; which he had found at the bottom of the ward fridge!!!
    I attempted to peel it to but could not- I then asked for a knife and was given a plastic one!! I gave up- the orange was frozen!
    During my long stays I spent a lot of time helping people who were having problems with their meals- not just older people1 Some people had been involved in an RTA ( there were no beds on the ortho. wards) who could not cut their food, reach their food or manage to get the food into their mouths due to broken arms! If it was'nt bad practice it would have been funny!!
    I teach nurses and carers in the private sector; and can honestly say that these staff had a firm understanding regarding nutrition and hydration , and all the settings I have visited have rigid action plans regarding nutrition and hydration; service users are weighed every week, if they lose weight over two weeks; food and fluid charts are employed and if they lose weight aver the next two weeks th3e community dietician is contacted , visits and between the staff and the dietetic dept. an action plan is instigated.
    Hospital food has a reputation for being of poor quality, I feel this is not strictly true; but if it is the 'wrong' type of food for an individual and there is no support to assist people to eat and drink then patients will suffer the consequences. I saw one patient actually trying to drink water out of his flower vase!! I was bed-bound and could only ring for the nurse - who told him he would have to wait for his water until the ward 'domestic' had washed and returned the jugs!!!

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  • and about time too! Poor nutrition leads to tiredness, loss of energy, loss of desire to be up and about. besides lowering the immune system. Consequently some acute illness or an exacerbation of a chronic one, lands them in hospital. Unless the under-lying nutrition/hydration problem is addressed, recovery will be slow (expensive) or non-existent-death will follow

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