Preventing malnutrition in later life

MTF announce countrywide events to highlight problem of older people who are malnourished

NHW 2015

The Malnutrition Task Force is holding events in each of the 5 pilot sites as part of Nutrition & Hydration Week (#NHW2015) and as the first part of the Malnutrition Prevention Programme comes to an end.

Events include drop in tea parties, roadshows and expert speakers all to raise awareness of malnutrition and the innovative work the Programme has achieved.

The Prevention Programme was set up by the Malnutrition Task Force in order to raise awareness of malnutrition amongst older people, carers and professionals, help ensure the right services and support are in place locally to prevent malnutrition wherever possible and provide the right care and support whenever needed. The Programme has been funded by the Department of Health as part of their response to the Francis Inquiry and aims to help the one million older people in England who are suffering from or are at risk of malnutrition and dehydration.

The Programme has seen whole communities – including local NHS trusts, hospitals, GP Practices, care homes and community groups – come together to tackle malnutrition in local areas across the country and try out innovative new approaches to working across organisations to tackle malnutrition.

The five pilot sites are Gateshead, Salford, Purbeck in Dorset, Kent and Lambeth & Southwark and they have done much work in the past year to tackle malnutrition. For instance, in the last year:

  1. Salford have trailed a shopping trip which sees dieticians and Age UK staff taking older people around a local supermarket, offering them advice on nutritious goods (see here)
  2. Kent have identified some of those at risk of malnutrition and have taken to weighing them regularly and suggesting interventions where low weight or weight loss is an issue (see here)
  3. Lambeth and Southwark created a page on a local online directory, signposting older people to food and nutrition services in their area (see here)
  4. Purbeck have developed a web based MUST (Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool) database for local GP practices to use
  5. Gateshead are ensuring that volunteers are provided at mealtimes in identified care settings to make sure older people are receiving the nutrition they need

Dianne Jeffrey, Chair of the Malnutrition Task Force and Chairman of Age UK said:

“Malnutrition is often overlooked as a health issue and the scale of the problem is rarely recognised. Yet there are one million older people who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition and the consequences for their health can be very serious indeed. Malnourished older people are more likely to get ill, more likely to be admitted to hospital and it will usually take them much longer to recover.

“Eating and drinking well is critical when it comes to staying healthy and independent, yet this can become more difficult as we get older. Older people may lose their appetite, especially if they are taking medication, or may find it more difficult to manage practical tasks like cooking and shopping. Loneliness, depression and bereavement can also play a role as well.

“But in many cases malnutrition is preventable and, as the vast majority of people at risk (93%) are living in the community, it is absolutely vital we work across professional boundaries to provide the right information, care and support.

“We are delighted with the success of the Malnutrition Prevention Programme to date and we are looking forward to receiving the full results from the pilots and hope for the scheme to be rolled out nationally.”

The Malnutrition Task Force was set up in 2012 to help prevent older people being caught in a spiral of decline as medical professionals often fail to spot the warning signs of malnutrition. The Task Force, chaired by Age UK Chairman Dianne Jeffrey, aims to share its expertise and develop practical solutions to the problem across the NHS, residential care and in the community. Members include local government, commissioners, professional associations, GPs, dieticians, NHS service providers and community meal providers

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