The number of older people diagnosed with malnutrition has trebled 500,000 during the last decade, according to NHS Digital. Statistics show more than one million people aged 60 and over are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. Sufferers are in non-healthcare settings in nine out of 10 cases, which means their condition often goes unnoticed.
“Increasing numbers of people diagnosed with malnutrition is a cause for concern because poor nutrition can be both a cause and consequence of ill health,” said Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK.
“Signs will often go unnoticed until they have made a negative impact on health and wellbeing. Malnourishment can cause long-term health problems for otherwise healthy and independent older people. It can also mean more visits to the GP, increased chances of being admitted to hospital and longer recovery times from illness.”
It is estimated that one in three people admitted to hospital are malnourished or at risk of becoming so. This year, the cost of treating malnutrition is expected to rise to £13bn.
Tackling this is a big challenge but help is at hand. Inhealthcare has worked with NHS dieticians on a new digital pathway designed to improve the health and wellbeing of elderly people at risk of malnutrition.
The service, rolled out across 100 care homes in the UK at the end of 2019, provides a close monitoring system for residents with the regular measurement of key data such as weight, body mass index, food and drink intake, appetite and number of supplements consumed.
This data is fed into a dashboard for care managers who receive alerts if readings fall out of range, allowing carers to quickly respond to those in most need. As well as ensuring residents get the right help at the right time, the service also helps to ensure more efficient prescribing of nutritional supplements.
No-one can argue that malnutrition is on the rise but we can make a difference, both to people and the public purse, through NHS partnerships like this one. To find out more, please contact me via