Elderly patients face hospital hungerThousands in danger of being malnourished

29 August 2006

 

Nine out of ten nurses say they don't always have time to help patients eat properly, says new research from Age Concern.

The charity is warning that because of this, 60 per cent of older patients risk becoming malnourished or their condition deteriorating while in hospital.

Those aged over 80 are particularly at risk - their rate of malnutrition is five times higher the rate among those aged under 50, according to the charity.

The Age Concern survey of 500 nurses found that nine out of ten didn't always have time to help patients who needed help with eating and drinking.

Hungry to be heard

The charity has now launched a campaign called Hungry to be Heard .

Age Concern Director General Gordon Lishman said: ‘Hospitals are in danger of becoming bad for the health of older people. The majority of older patients are being denied some of the basic care they need, leaving hundreds of thousands of older patients malnourished. 

‘It is shocking that the dignity of patients is being overlooked, and that Age Concern has to run a campaign to fight for the implementation of such simple measures.

‘From ward to board everyone needs to address this problem. Food and help with eating it should be recognised by ward staff as an essential part of care, and they should be given time to perform this task.’

Age Concern says all hospital staff must listen to older people, and their relatives and carers. It wants older people to be assessed for signs they're  not eating enough, both on admission to hospital and at regular intervals during their stay.

Health Minister Caroline Flint admitted there were problems with malnutrition in hospitals, and told GMTV there was ‘no excuse for people coming into our hospitals not being fed properly’.

Extra nurses

Ms Flint said that 85,000 extra nurses had been introduced into the NHS along with 3,000 matrons, to provide a greater level of care.

She added that new initiatives had been introduced. These included prioritised meal times - where nurses focus entirely on patients' eating - and ‘red tray’ policies, where those patients with dietary problems are highlighted.

As part of its campaign, Age Concern is urging older people or their families to visit its Hungry to be Heard site and record their own experience of eating in hospital.