Addressing Nutrition Of Older People In Care

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Health Minister, Ivan Lewis, published a groundbreaking Nutrition Action Plan in conjunction with over 25 leading stakeholders, outlining a range of actions to tackle malnutrition and ensure the nutritional needs of older people in hospitals and care homes are better met.

This first ever national plan aims to ensure that health and social care staff and managers are well informed, equipped and supported to provide good nutrition and effective nutritional care. The action plan outlines five priorities for health and social care organisations:

-To raise awareness of the link between nutrition and good health and that malnutrition can be treated;

-To ensure that accessible guidance is available across all sectors and that the most relevant guidance is appropriate and user-friendly.

-To strongly encourage nutritional screening for all people using health and social care services; with particular attention to those groups who are known to be vulnerable.

-To encourage provision and access to relevant training for frontline staff and managers on the importance of nutrition for good health and nutritional care; and

-To clarify standards and strengthen inspection and regulation.

A range of actions to support these priorities have already been agreed including:

-Commitment from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) that Nutrition principles will be assessed in practice as part of student nurse training from September 2008.

-Largest study ever undertaken on malnutrition on admission to hospital and care homes - conducted by the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN).

-Training programme on nutritional care and assistance with eating will be available to all NHS and social care staff from May 2008.

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-Tougher regulation and Inspection - Building on the work already done by CSCI and the Healthcare Commission the Department of Health will work with regulators to ensure that standards of nutrition and dignity are central to quality inspections.

-Development of a range of good practice on nutritional care by the Department of Health and the Social Care Institute for Excellence

As part of the plan, the Government and stakeholders will also be encouraging the NHS to use the Council of Europe Alliance (UK) "10 Key Characteristics of Good Nutritional Care" - a landmark document which creates a common understanding of what good nutritional care looks like in hospital settings.

Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, has been asked by Ivan Lewis to chair the Nutrition Action Plan Delivery Board that will ensure delivery of the Action Plan. The group, which will be made up of leading stakeholders, will monitor the various commitments made in the Nutrition Action Plan ensuring that they are completed on time and that any issues around their implementation are identified.

Ivan Lewis, Health Minister, said:

"Too often older people and their relatives tell us of experiences in hospitals and care homes where the food is poor or no help is provided to help people eat and drink properly. Weight loss is sometimes wrongly explained away as being due to illness when in reality it is because of a failure to put nutrition at the heart of peoples care.

"This neglect and poor practice cannot be tolerated; every hospital and care home should be in no doubt that they have a responsibility to ensure that older people have a choice of good food and were necessary are assisted to eat and drink properly.

"Today's action plan is unprecedented and makes it clear that nutrition is about dignity but also central to older people's good health and ability to recover from illness.

"I am delighted that Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, has agreed to oversee the delivery of this action plan and ensure it makes a real difference in care homes and hospitals throughout the country."

Gordon Lishman CBE, Director General of Age Concern, said:

"I have been angry and concerned about the terrible effects of malnutrition in some hospitals and care settings for years and I am delighted that there is now a real commitment to change.

"As Chair, I will work with the Government and the organisations that have signed up to the Nutrition Action Plan to ensure that every responsible organisation and individual is held accountable to deliver on the commitments made. We now have a great opportunity to improve older people's lives dramatically at a time when they are at their most vulnerable."

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