New research has suggested that more needs to be done to ensure that community-based services consider malnutrition to be a top priority.
Compiled by the Malnutrition Taskforce, the report found that just over half (51 per cent) of health professionals think malnutrition is a priority in their organisations. However, this could be the result of a lack of skills and expertise in the area, with just 47 per cent feeling their knowledge was sufficient enough to help people most at risk.
It is estimated that more than 1.3 million people older people in the UK suffer from malnutrition, with the vast majority (93 per cent) of those living in the community. Involving a nutritionist can be the best way to ensure older people are getting a balanced diet, but receiving this support can be difficult when someone is not involved with care services.
The survey 'Experiences of Patient Malnutrition’, conducted by Dods Research, found that half of the professionals included in the research felt unclear about what services or support were available in their community.
Nearly a third (32 per cent) of older people admitted to hospital or a care home from the community are already at risk of malnutrition, as are half of patients who go to care homes from a hospital.
This can put them at risk of several long-term conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, dementia and swallowing problems or dysphagia. It can also have a significant negative impact on their mental wellbeing and lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Dianne Jeffrey, chair of the Malnutrition Task Force and chairman of Age UK, said eating and drinking well is a "vital part" of staying in good health and being independent.
She said: "Malnutrition is a really knotty problem. While many of the interventions are relatively simple, to be really effective they require a wide range of services to come together, recognise the problem and each make a contribution towards tackling it."
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