Preventing malnutrition in later life

Salford’s Armband – tackling malnutrition with paper

Paper has many uses, but you wouldn’t think one of them is to identify malnutrition risk! However, in Salford, Kirstine Farrer and her team have come up with a way of doing just that – tackling malnutrition through using an Armband made from a simple strip of paper. In this blog, Kirstine, a consultant dietician at the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, explains the thinking behind this innovation and what it means for patients.

There has never been a more urgent need for health care providers and commissioners to act and address the problem of malnutrition. Needless suffering, neglect and inconsistent standards of dignity are unacceptable.

It is a condition that frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated with one in 10 older people suffering from or at risk of malnutrition. This equates to around one million older people in the UK, and more than one in three are malnourished or at risk of malnourishment on admission to hospital.

Not only is this intolerable from a health perspective, but malnutrition can lead to more hospital admissions and re-admissions, longer hospital stays and greater healthcare needs, which means costs can spiral out of control.

The journey to the Armband

Our journey to creating the PaperWeight Armband started in 2013, when Salford was chosen as one of the six pilot sites to be part of the Malnutrition Prevention Programme for 12 months.

We set up a nutrition committee through ‘Salford Together,’ and it was concluded that we wanted to establish a non-intrusive, non-medical intervention solution that health care providers and the voluntary sector would be able to implement quickly and easily into their practice. The PaperWeight Armband was born out of this.

Age UK Salford piloted the Armband with support workers using it on home visits. They were able to measure the upper arm of service users with the simple strip of paper, and if it was able to slide up and down easily then there was a high risk of malnutrition.

The charity was then able to provide further information, advice and support on simple dietary changes that could be made to increase calorie intake. The results were really positive, with service users gaining weight, making improvements to their diet, and enjoying cooking and eating again.

The signposting tool and its supporting handbook, nutrition booklet and e-learning resources on malnutrition and dysphagia can be used by health and social care professionals to identify the risk of malnutrition and offer nutrition guidance to help people make improvements in weight without the need for formal medical intervention, increase the proportion of older people who feel supported to manage their own conditions and improve the quality of life for service users and carers.

What next

The PaperWeight Armband was launched at Food Matters Live in 2015. The hope now is that the hard work Salford has pioneered to help fight malnutrition will spearhead an integrated approach to dealing with it, helping to save lives and reducing costs – all starting with a simple strip of paper.

Indeed, we are aware that other Age UK centres and CCGs across the UK are looking at introducing the Armband following the success in Salford, and we are excited about working with them to roll out the product.

Click here to view a short video on the development of the Armband.

Read about other initiatives the Salford pilot undertook as part of the Malnutrition Prevention Programme.

Also, head to Age UK Salford’s website, where you can register for more information and a starter pack that includes the PaperWeight Armband and supporting handbook with nutritional guidance and advice.

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