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Simple paper strip aids identification of malnutrition in older patients

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Health and social care professionals have worked together to reduce the risk of malnutrition in older people and prevent hospital admissions by using a “simple strip of paper”.

They have created a “simple and effective signposting tool” that can spot the early signs of malnutrition, which they hope will be adopted by nurses further afield.

“It is a simple strip of paper that is an effective, non-medical, non-intrusive tool”

Kirstine Farrer

The PaperWeight Armband works by measuring the circumference of a person’s bare upper arm. If it can slide up and down the arm easily, and measures less than 23.5cm, it is likely that body mass index is less than 20kg/m2 – indicating a high risk of malnutrition.

Once a risk is identified, support and advice is given, and the early intervention reduces the chances of being admitted to hospital, according to its developers in Salford, Greater Manchester.

Last year, it was revealed the number of hospital admissions due to malnutrition had shot up by more than a third in the last five years across Greater Manchester.

Salford Age UK

Simple paper strip aids identification of malnutrition

PaperWeight Armband

Kirstine Farrer, consultant dietitian at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, said: “What we have done is gone back to basics to help improve diagnosis and ultimately help save lives.

“Rather than rely on a BMI chart and scales we have stripped it back to another level,” she said. “It is a simple strip of paper that is an effective, non-medical, non-intrusive tool that can also help cut costs associated with treating the condition.”

She added: “We want this to be a tool that is used by nurses in the community, care home staff and other social care providers across the country.”

Support workers at Age UK Salford have piloted the PaperWeight Armband on home visits along with a supporting nutrition booklet.

The results showed that service users gained weight, made improvements to their diet and enjoyed eating again.

“Age UK Salford is pleased to be pioneering a new way of helping fight malnutrition”

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes, chief executive of the charity’s Salford branch, said: “There has never been a more urgent need for healthcare providers and commissioners to act and address the problem. Age UK Salford is pleased to be pioneering a new way of helping fight malnutrition.”

More than 3,000 armbands have already been handed out in the borough and the initiative is set to be rolled out across the country, with interest from other healthcare providers.

Salford Age UK

Simple paper strip aids identification of malnutrition

Dave Haynes

According to NHS England, around one in three patients admitted to acute care will be malnourished or at risk of becoming so, and a similar number admitted to care homes will also be affected.

Improving the identification and treatment of malnutrition is estimated to have the third highest potential to deliver cost savings to the NHS.

The PaperWeight Armband was officially launched this week – marking Nutrition and Hydration Week, 14-18 March.

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