BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme has reported that medical students currently learn very little on nutrition and the way that diet and lifestyle affect health, and that what students do learn is not practical or relevant.

The programme, which was broadcast on Sunday 25th March, and subsequent report on BBC News Online reported that non-communicable diseases are placing significant financial strain on the NHS, with diabetes alone costing the NHS £11bn this year, and that  better medical education on nutrition and diet could cut costs to the NHS.

Commenting on the article, Dr Simon Gabe, BAPEN President, stated:

“It is worrying that we are not equipping the doctors of tomorrow with the knowledge of nutrition that gives them the skills and confidence to provide practical advice to patients. Good nutrition is central to health and well-being, and education about nutrition is therefore vital from a public health perspective. In addition to this, good nutritional care is also important in aiding recovery and sustaining the health of individuals with health problems. It is especially important for patients that are recovering from surgery or who are living with long-term or progressive conditions.

Over 3 million people in the UK are at risk of or suffering from malnutrition and the recent All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger’s ‘Hidden hunger and malnutrition in the elderly’ report highlighted that malnutrition is a growing problem in England as our population ages, and vulnerable people are increasingly at risk of malnutrition as a result of social or environmental factors such as loneliness as well as being at risk of disease related malnutrition.

We believe that the medical curricula should be re-designed to incorporate appropriate study of nutrition and malnutrition so that nutrition is better recognised and integrated into general practice. We warmly welcome the General Medical Council’s review and call on the GMC to place greater emphasis on nutrition and malnutrition in their standards. We look forward to its revised outcomes in the summer.”

Notes

BAPEN has a number education and guidance resources, as well as e-learning modules, including for the ‘Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool’ (‘MUST’) that are available on its website.

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