BAPEN welcomes the publication of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger’s report ‘Hidden hunger and malnutrition in the elderly” and the increased focus that this places on nutrition and hydration in the elderly.

The report highlights the growing problem of malnutrition in the elderly and finds in the decade from 2005-06 to 2015-16 the number of people aged 60 and above admitted to hospital with a primary diagnosis of malnutrition more than trebled.

The report recommends that Government should ensure that at all levels of care, staff are trained to use the BAPEN’s Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (‘MUST’) to identify older people who are at risk of malnutrition and ensure that they receive the appropriate nutritional support to improve their condition.

Commenting on the report, Dr Simon Gabe, BAPEN President said:

“The findings of this report highlight the scale and impact of malnutrition amongst older people in England and we welcome the call for greater uptake of ‘MUST’ (the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool) by health and social care professionals in both acute and community settings.

Data from BAPEN’s Nutrition Screening Week surveys has shown that almost 30% patients admitted to hospitals in the UK are at risk of malnutrition. Many of those at risk, whether they have disease related malnutrition or are malnourished because of social or environmental factors, could have been identified and treated in the community.

We would like to see older people have greater access to information about eating well and be signposted to the BAPEN Malnutrition Self-Screening Tool which is available free online, and is designed to help people identify their own risk of malnutrition.

We are also calling on the Care Quality Commission to include questions on nutrition and hydration care provision in its inspections of domiciliary care providers and GP practices. We would also like to see more Nutrition Steering Committees to guide and support community settings on nutrition and hydration policy and provision and to ensure pathways are in place in each setting.

There is a clear need to identify more people who are malnourished early, so that action can be taken sooner to support their recovery and to minimise harm. In order to achieve this, nutrition needs to be built into conversations at every level of the health and social care system, so that people who need help can be identified and supported appropriately. Adequate social care funding is necessary, and we believe increased investment in social care and the social networks that support older people is likely to result in cost savings associated with the management of malnutrition.

As the report identifies, social isolation and loneliness can lead to some older people becoming malnourished. BAPEN is urging local Healthwatch organisations and the equivalent bodies in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to look at what access older people have to luncheon clubs and voluntary support networks. BAPEN welcomes the Government’s recent appointment of a ministerial lead for loneliness, and its commitment to develop a cross-Governmental strategy to tackle loneliness. BAPEN looks forward to working with the Government to develop their strategy and ensure that processes are in place to tackle malnutrition that is associated with isolation and reduced access to food.”

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