Malnutrition 'costs UK billions'


Roman Bystrianyk

"Malnutrition 'costs UK billions'", BBC News, December 13, 2005,

Malnutrition costs the UK more than £7.3bn a year - more than double
the bill for obesity, a report has found.

However, the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition
said malnutrition was given a much lower priority by the government.

The report estimates around 30% of patients in hospitals and nursing
homes are clinically malnourished.

In total, more than three million people are thought to be malnourished
at any one time.

This includes 10% of people over the age of 65 living in the community.

A report published by the Malnutrition Advisory Group in 2003 warned
that many people with malnutrition go undiagnosed.

Malnourished people stay in hospital longer, succumb to infection more
often, and visit their GP more frequently.

They also require longer-term care, and more extensive nursing care.

Screening needed

The BAPEN report found it costs £3.8 billion a year to treat
malnourished people in hospital, and £2.6 billion to treat them in
long-term care facilities.

GP and outpatient visits add another £750 million to the bill.

Professor Marinos Elia, BAPEN chairman, called for effective screening
to detect malnutrition, so that appropriate nutritional treatment can
be provided.

The association has developed a simple-to-use screening tool to
identify those already suffering or at risk of malnutrition.

Professor Elia said: "It is surprising that in England it has not been
made mandatory for all patients to be screened for malnutrition on
admission to hospital as it has in Scotland.

"It takes a period of time for an individual to become clinically
malnourished, often starting in the community, but if at least it is
picked up in hospital a great deal of suffering of patients and their
families can be avoided.

"Resources must be made available for the training of health and care
staff in all settings so that malnourished patients and residents are
identified and appropriate treatment and support provided."

A Department of Health spokesperson said measures, backed by new
investment, had been put in place to tackle the health inequalities
that can lead to poor diet and ill health.

The Better Hospital Food programme had improved quality, access and
availability of food to hospital patients.

Minimum standards for meals in care homes had also been introduced.