BAPEN welcomes the news that recently reported work by Helpforce has shown that volunteers make a positive impact supporting NHS staff and patients. Across all five NHS trusts studied by Helpforce, volunteers were found to lessen patients’ feelings of anxiety and social isolation and were successful in preventing malnutrition by coaxing patients to eat their meals. The insights were reported in the national media, including in the Daily Mail.

Dr Trevor Smith, President of BAPEN, says “I am delighted to see that recognition has been given to the role that hospital volunteers play in helping to prevent malnutrition, physical injury, social isolation and anxiety. Much of the malnutrition presenting in hospitals is disease-related, caused by pre-existing health conditions, which can predispose patients to becoming malnourished and negatively impact on clinical and economic outcomes within our health system. The support from volunteers in motivating and encouraging these patients to eat well, but also to flag when concerned, is extremely valued and will help to improve outcomes in those who are predisposed to it as well as preventing unnecessary malnutrition elsewhere.

Whilst the support of volunteers in this regard is invaluable, malnutrition is a huge issue which will require a systemic change in our healthcare system to overcome. Identifying individuals at risk as soon as possible will go a long way towards improving clinical and economic outcomes and so the importance of nutritional screening must not be overlooked. The ‘Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool’ (‘MUST’) should be routinely used by healthcare professionals in hospitals to help identify those at risk.”

The Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (’MUST’) is available here.

For members of the public or those in community leadership roles concerned about malnutrition or weight loss, a Self-Screening Tool is available here.

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