Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Conference on ‘Malnutrition matters’

Symposium 2: The skeleton in the closet: malnutrition in the community

Malnutrition in the UK: policies to address the problem

13–14 October 2009, The Annual Meeting of the Nutrition Society and BAPEN, Cardiff International Arena, Cardiff.

M. Eliaa1 c1, C. A. Russella2 and R. J. Strattona1

a1 Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Tremona Road, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

a2 21 Gayton Road, Eastcote, Towcester, Northamptonshire NN12 8NG, UK

Abstract

In 2007, the estimated cost of disease-related malnutrition in the UK was in excess of £13×109. At any point in time, only about 2% of over 3 million individuals at risk of malnutrition were in hospital, 5% in care homes and the remainder in the community (2–3% in sheltered housing). Some government statistics (England) grossly underestimated the prevalence of malnutrition on admission and discharge from hospital (1000–3000 annually between 1998 and 2008), which is less than 1% of the prevalence (about 3 million in 2007–2008) established by national surveys using criteria based on the ‘Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool’ (‘MUST’). The incidence of malnutrition-related deaths in hospitals, according to government statistics (242 deaths in England in 2007), was also <1% of an independent estimate, which was as high as 100 000/year. Recent healthcare policies have reduced the number of hospital and care home beds and encouraged care closer to home. Such policies have raised issues about education and training of the homecare workforce, including 6 million insufficiently supported informal carers (10% of the population), the commissioning process, and difficulties in implementing nutritional policies in a widely distributed population. The four devolved nations in the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) have developed their own healthcare polices to deal with malnutrition. These generally aim to span across all care settings and various government departments in a co-ordinated manner, but their effectiveness remains to be properly evaluated.

(Online publication June 16 2010)

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding author: Professor M. Elia, fax +44 2380 79 4945, email elia@soton.ac.uk