29/08/2006

Nurses 'too busy' to help patients eat

Nine out of ten nurses say that they do not always have time to help patients who need assistance with eating, a study has revealed.

The charity Age Concern said that a lack of nursing time and a failure by hospitals to introduce simple safeguards has hit the most vulnerable patients.

The charity said that statistics showed that six out of ten older patients are at risk of becoming malnourished or their situation getting worse while in hospital. The figures were worse for patients over 80, as they had a five times higher prevalence of malnutrition while in hospital than those under the age of 50.

Malnutrition is estimated to cost the UK over £7.3 billion per year - much more than obesity. Malnourished patients stay in hospital for longer, are three times as likely to develop complications during surgery and have a higher mortality rate.

Age Concern has launched a national campaign, 'Hungry to be Heard' in order to highlight the problem.

A report by the charity made a series of recommendations aimed at preventing avoidable malnutrition in older patients. These included: staff becoming 'food aware'; regular assessment of older people for signs of malnourishment during their stay in hospital; the introduction of 'protected mealtimes', where all non-urgent activity is suspended; and the implementation of a 'red tray system' to help identify patients who need special help.

Gordon Lishman, Director-General of Age Concern, 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 should be recognised by ward staff as an essential part of care and they should be given time to perform this task."

(KMcA/SP)

Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

14 August 2014
30 Women Recalled For Breast Screening Over Doctor Concerns
Up to 30 women are to be recalled for breast cancer screenings after five patients treated by the same doctor developed the disease. Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust has identified the group of 30 women from a total of 626 that were seen between 2011 and 2014. It is understood that the women need "urgent appointments" for reassessment.
22 September 2008
Scottish Government Pledges Cap On Surgery Waiting Times
Scottish patients may soon have a legal guarantee that they will wait no longer than 12 weeks for surgery. The Scottish Government's Patient Rights Bill proposes a strict limit on how long they have to wait from their surgical referral to receiving their operation.
13 September 2012
Hospitals On 'Brink Of Collapse' Warn Doctors
Doctors have warned that England’s hospitals could be on the brink of collapse because of rising demand and the increasing complexity of patients' conditions. A new Royal College of Physicians' report said that bed numbers had been cut by a third over the past 25 years.
21 February 2005
A&E waits shorter, but wards dirtier, say patients
Patients are experiencing shorter waits for emergency treatment and outpatient appointments, but believe hospitals are dirtier, the Healthcare Commission has found. Two major patient surveys of 140,000 patients, conducted by the Commission, also found that patients want more information regarding their treatment.
04 May 2004
Birmingham trust nominated to run £1.8m genetics centre
Birmingham Women's Healthcare Trust have won a bid to run the new Genetics Education and Development Centre. The Centre, which will educate NHS staff about genetics and the role it plays in modern healthcare, is part of the Government's wider £50 million strategy to make sure that patients benefit from the latest developments in genetic knowledge.