Time for a ‘Nutrition Tsar’ to tackle malnutrition in health and social care? - BSNA

Posted On: 
7th October 2019

The British Specialist Nutrition Association (BSNA) look to NHS and social care bodies to give greater leadership to address the challenge of malnutrition.

The number of adults being admitted to hospital with malnutrition has more than doubled in the last decade, writes BSNA.
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The number of adults being admitted to hospital with malnutrition has more than doubled in the last decade, with admissions related to a primary diagnosis of malnutrition increasing to 735 in 2017-18 from 348 in 2008-09, according to new figures released by NHS Digital.

There was also a dramatic increase in the number of admissions with a secondary diagnosis of malnutrition, with the figure more than trebling over the last ten years from 2,545 to 7,803.

Over three million people in the UK are estimated to be either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition and £23.5bn is spent by health and care services in the UK to manage it each year. It costs over £5,000 more to treat someone who is malnourished than well-nourished and it affects all parts of the country regardless of relative wealth.

The British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN), Age UK and Independent Age have also called for more action from Government to ensure malnutrition is better identified and treated across health and social care.

In research published by BSNA last year, through its Forgotten not Fixed: A Blueprint to Tackle the Increasing Burden of Malnutrition in England report, more than half of the hospital trusts in England may be reporting malnutrition rates that appear to be below national estimates.

Responding to the figures, BSNA Director General, Declan O’Brien said,

“Currently one in three people in care homes, one in ten visiting their GP and one in four people admitted to hospital are malnourished. We know the number of malnourished people is increasing rather than decreasing. This is unacceptable – we need action.”

For a country with the fifth highest GDP in the world, such statistics are shocking; they are even more alarming when one realises that the number of deaths from malnutrition has risen by nearly a third in the last decade.

Declan added: “While there is now some attention on hospital food with the recently announced national review, for many the problem is caused by an illness that prevents them from eating or absorbing nutrients normally.

“For these patients, what is often needed is properly administered specialist nutrition (known as foods for special medical purposes or medical foods), whether they are in hospital, in care homes or in their own homes”.

Currently, responsibility for nutritional care across health and social care, including the assessment and identification of patients at risk of malnutrition and appropriate management, is spread across a number of organisations and roles. As malnutrition continues to increase, BSNA is calling for the appointment of a clinical director for nutrition within NHS England to provide leadership across all settings and for all patients at risk of malnutrition.