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New support for malnutrition report

21 February 2012

Malnutrition and caring: The hidden cost for families, a report from Carers UK in conjunction with Nutricia, has won support from parliamentarians and nutrition professionals.

The report, launched in February, highlights that too many families are struggling to cope with the lack of nutrition advice and support currently available, and are sometimes left to face the serious consequences of malnutrition.

Malnutrition, however, is largely preventable and Carers UK is calling for action to improve nutritional support offered to carers and the people they care for. Support for Carers UK’s calls for action has come from the chief executives of the British Dietetic Association and the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, Baroness Greengross and Care Services Minister Paul Burstow MP.

Baroness Greengross OBE, Chief Executive of ILC-UK and EHRC Commissioner, said: "My work on the Equality and Human Rights Commission's Home Care Inquiry, published in November, laid down a challenge to social care services. Whilst providers cope with rapidly growing demand and a challenging financial climate, they must ensure that care services always meet people's basic human rights. Access to nutrition and hydration are fundamental rights, yet too many older and disabled people and their families are left without the support they need to meet basic nutritional needs.

I welcome the report published by Carers UK which makes it clear that one of the key routes to tackling malnutrition is ensuring that carers and families are given the advice, information and tools they need, and are not left to struggle alone. We urgently need action at a national level to ensure we have a coherent strategy to tackle malnutrition and dehydration amongst older and disabled people."

Andy Burman, Chief Executive of The British Dietetic Association, said: “Having enough to eat and drink is one of the most basic human needs, yet today in the UK millions people are living in their own homes are going hungry.  For many, the perception of malnutrition is limited to third world countries when the sad truth tells a very different story.  In 2012, malnutrition is a major issue on our very own doorstep.

“The British Dietetic Association has been campaigning hard to highlight the horrendous levels of malnutrition in older people living in their own homes, through our Mind the Hunger Gap campaign.  We are proud to support this latest Carers UK report which highlights the wider implication malnutrition has across the board, not only on those suffering, but on their carers too.”

Dr Tim Bowling, Chair of BAPEN, said " BAPEN fully supports Carers UK call for three specific actions that will support carers to recognise the risk of malnutrition early and to ensure appropriate advice and nutrition care planning are available where required. Carers must be supported to provide good nutritional care for their relatives and action is urgently needed to promote nutritional screening in community settings with access to appropriately trained health care professionals.

A joint national nutrition strategy is required and BAPEN is committed to co-authoring such a strategy with the Department of Health and a coalition of national partners working in the field of malnutrition. We look forward to working with Carers UK to tackle these problems effectively and put an end to avoidable malnutrition."

Paul Burstow MP, Minister of Care Services, speaking at the launch of the report praised Malnutrition and Caring for highlighting the need for quality information about nutrition which is easily available for families when they need it most. The Minister added that the report was timely, making an important contribution to efforts being made to tackle malnutrition, including steps by the Government to integrate health and social care and expand and skill up the social care workforce. The launch of the report coincided with National Apprenticeships Week, and Paul Burstow noted that in recent years the number of young people taking an apprenticeship in the social care sector has trebled to 50,000, adding that educating the social care workforce about nutrition was of vital importance. Good practice regarding nutrition in community care settings is there, but there are also too many cases where it is not, and Paul Burstow told of how the CQC Dignity and Nutrition inspections which began in hospitals will be rolled out to residential and domiciliary care too in an effort to drive up standards.

The full research report can be read here

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