Detecting malnutrition and the risk of malnutrition
- Last Updated: 30 March 2015
This is the first step in identifying subjects who may be at nutritional risk or potentially at risk, and who may benefit from appropriate nutritional intervention. It is a rapid, simple and general procedure used by nursing, medical, or other staff on first contact with the subject so that clear guidelines for action can be implemented and appropriate nutritional advice provided. Some subjects may just need help and advice with eating and drinking; others may need to be referred for more expert advice.
Screening may need to be repeated regularly as a subject’s clinical condition and nutritional problems can change. It is particularly important to re-assess subjects identified at risk as they move through care settings.
It is always better to prevent or detect problems early by screening than discover serious problems later.
There are many nutrition screening tools in use across the world. However, the most commonly used screening tool in all care settings in the UK is the ’Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool’ (‘MUST’). This was developed and launched by BAPEN in 2003. It was designed to be valid, reliable and easy to use in all adults. It can detect over-nutrition as well as under-nutrition and is linked to a flexible care plan. It is not designed to detect deficiencies in or excessive intakes of vitamins and minerals. ‘MUST’ continues to develop and there is currently work to explore its use by the public for self-screening.
There are a number of information leaflets that have been produced for the public to help them spot the signs of malnutrition and give simple advice on what to do if they are concerned either about themselves or about members of their family or friends.
“Malnutrition – how to spot the signs and what to expect from treatment” has been produced by the Patients Association and distributed to all GP surgeries.
“Malnutrition – Overcoming the Problem” Food Fact Sheet produced by the British Dietetic Association (BDA) as part of their “Mind the Hunger Gap campaign”. This covers both recognising the problem of malnutrition and simple advice about how to overcome the problem.
“Spotting the signs of Malnutrition and Dehydration” is an information sheet produced by the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) and is available from their website. It is designed to help those working in the care industry to spot the signs of malnutrition and dehydration before it’s too late.
“Malnutrition” Information about malnutrition is also available from NHS Choices. This covers all aspects, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.