Preventing malnutrition in later life



An ageing population combined with a high level of social disadvantage means that Gateshead is an ideal location for piloting the Malnutrition Prevention Programme.

The latest estimated resident population of Gateshead is 200,153, with approximately 36,500 aged 65 or over, accounting for 18% of the population. Gateshead’s population is also growing older; between 2011 and 2012 the number of people aged 65 to 74 increased by 800, whilst the number of those 75+ increased by 250. Click on ‘Mid-2012 Population Estimates (PDF Download) to see these figures and more.

Levels of social disadvantage in Gateshead are markedly higher than England overall; over one third of the population of Gateshead live in areas that are among the 20% most disadvantaged areas across England (see ‘The Wider Determinants of Health in Gateshead in 2012 – PDF Download).


The ‘Participating Organisations’ (see below) working to deliver the pilot aim to improve the health of local older people by make sure they receive the best possible nutritional care in different settings.

Achieving this aim will not only improve the wellbeing of local people, but has the potential to reduce pressure on local health and social care organisations.

This overarching aim is underpinned by the following objectives:

  • Focus on preventing malnutrition from occurring in both community and care settings.
  • Raising awareness of malnutrition within the community and among professionals, particularly those caring for older people.
  • Maximising the early identification of malnutrition in all settings.
  • Tackling malnutrition in a way that builds on existing practice to promote independent living within the community
  • Ensuring high quality care when people move between or enter care settings
  • Ensuring best practice is maintained within all organisations that deal with malnutrition

Participating Organisations

  • Gateshead Council
  • Age UK Gateshead
  • Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)
  • Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust
  • Healthwatch Gateshead
  • Addison Court Care Home
  • South Chowdene Care Home
  • Fellingate Care Centre
  • Northbourne Care Home

Projects undertaken (updated May 2016)

1. Launch

Prior to launch, the team conducted a KAP (Knowledge, Attitude and Practice) survey amongst older people and carers At the Gateshead launchto find out what they knew about nutrition in Gateshead. The results from this went towards informing the pilots’ projects below.

The team held a launch event for the pilot at the end of June 2014. This saw older clients, Age UK Gateshead volunteers, health professionals, community wardens, food retailers and catering staff in sheltered accommodation come together to help identify priorities for the Gateshead pilot. It also featured debates and presentations on key issues relating to malnutrition in Gateshead.

2. Raising awareness amongst the public 


The team distributed Malnutrition Task Force (MTF) guides and posters which aim to raise awareness of malnutrition to older people in the community.

Information sessions

Fourteen information sessions were held at numerous venues for older people across the city like community centres and older people’s assemblies. The stands had representatives from Age UK Gateshead to answer questions about malnutrition and hand out the aforementioned guides.

Information session stand in Gateshead
Information session stand in Gateshead

Supermarket trips

Supermarket trips were provided to help older people get out and about and do their shopping. Volunteers assisted older people during the shopping trips and a minibus was provided to help older people get to and from the venue.


The team established ‘Eat Well Live Well’ lunches where older people can eat a hot, appetising meal, prepared by a qualified chef, whilst enjoying the company of others in one of the local day centres.

Volunteer Fred serving meals at Eat Well and Live Well lunches
Staff member Fred serving meals at Eat Well and Live Well lunches

Media and comms

Media-wise, the CEO of Age UK Gateshead appeared on ITV to talk about food in local hospitals and malnutrition in the community. Coverage of the programme was also achieved in local papers.

Digital (Twitter, Facebook and Age UK Gateshead site) was used to spread messages about eating well in later life and the work of the pilot.

3. Raising awareness for staff

‘Time Out’ event for primary care

An event aimed at primary care in March 2014 was delivered by a dietitian, older people and nurse specialists. There were presentations and discussions on malnutrition prevention and screening, prescribing of nutritional supplements and patient food and drink preferences.

One of the upshots of the event was that the local Queen Elizabeth Hospital launched new ways to increase food and fluid intake on one of their wards (see ‘Increasing food and fluid intake– PDF Download).


Staff have been encouraged to put up posters raising awareness of malnutrition in hospitals, community nursing, promoting independence centres, care homes and GP surgeries.


Mandatory nutritional training for staff working within the sectors of disability, domiciliary care, promoting independence centres, and the meals and shopping service has been arranged (see ‘Mandatory Training for Malnutrition – PDF Download).

4. Use of volunteers at mealtimes

The team have introduced mealtime volunteers into Promoting Independence Centres run by Gateshead Council.

Older people frequently attend the Centres to eat and the volunteers, once trained up, can support each of them and keep them company to encourage a pleasurable mealtime experience.

Whilst carrying out this role, all volunteers are encouraged to achieve distance learning qualifications specific to nutrition and healthy eating.

5. Use of standardised tool

The MUST screening tool was chosen and has been rolled out into 21 hospital wards, 5 care homes and 4 Promoting Independence Centres

Training for health and care staff on how to use the tool took place throughout 2015 in different care settings. These events covered how to use the tool, what actions to take if someone has been identified as malnourished or at risk and practical tips on how to fortify food.

6. Consistency of sharing knowledge and skills

The pilot aims to ensure all staff have the same knowledge and skills appropriate to their level regardless of where they work (hospitals, care homes and Promoting Independence Centres).

The team used a mapping exercise to see what people in each sector knew, defined knowledge and skills that needed to be shared and identified training gaps in each sector. They then designed a training skills package and a strategy to support consistency.

The team are now delivering a rolling programme to support consistent sharing of skills and knowledge.


To find out more about the pilots, please contact:
Sharon Dryden, Age UK Gateshead
Tel: 0191 4773559

Past projects in the local area

At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead:

Nutritious snack menu improvements‘ (PDF Download) – After it was revealed that only 7% of patients identified by dieticians as needing snacks were receiving them, a scheme was launched to streamline the nutritious snack order process.

Protected Assisted Mealtimes‘ (PDF Download) – After it was found that mealtimes were often interrupted causing disruption to both patients and staff, a scheme was launched to ensure wards could focus on the mealtime experience.

Red mats jug lids glasses making a difference‘ (PDF Download) – Some patients at risk of malnutrition/dehydration were having their plates and cups removed at mealtimes before they had finished their meal. A scheme was launched to make sure patients identified as being at risk of malnutrition/dehydration were given as much time as is needed for them to eat their meal.


Gateshead Shopping Service‘ (PDF Download) – In 2011, Gateshead Council launched a scheme to support people who struggled to do their own shopping.


Gateshead Council website
Age UK Gateshead website
Our Gateshead website –  Gateshead’s online directory containing information about a range of services and local topics

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