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Three million people in UK affected by malnutrition

Report claims problem costs taxpayer £13 billion

OnMedica Staff

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Three million people are affected by malnutrition and the government needs to take urgent action to combat this.

This is the message of BAPEN (the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition) which today launched its report: Combating Malnutrition: Recommendations for Action.

The report states that at any given point in time, more than three million people in the UK are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. It estimates that this costs the taxpayer some £13 billion.

The majority of those at risk, says BAPEN, live in the community (93%) and not in care homes and hospitals, where the focus of government action has been to date.

BAPEN puts forward 25 actions that the government needs to lead in order to reduce both the cost of the condition to the taxpayer and the number of those at risk.

Key recommendations include increasing the number of patients who are screened for their risk both in the community and on admission to care (a recommendation made by NICE three years ago).

The organisation also calls for nutritional screening to be included in the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QoF) of the GP contract.

Commenting on the report, Professor Marinos Elia, Chair of the Advisory Group on Malnutrition, said: “The policy and regulation frameworks are in place into which many measures to combat malnutrition can be easily slotted. Government and the NHS together with the social care, housing and community sectors must now press forward with embedding nutritional care and treatment into daily practice to combat malnutrition where it starts – in the community.”

The report warns that societal trends look set to exacerbate the burden due to an ageing population, an increase in care provided informally in the community and an increase in conditions associated with malnutrition such as dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke.

It says the effectiveness of government policy is impeded by the way in which nutrition falls overwhelmingly under the responsibility of the Department of Health and it calls for a review of existing regulatory systems.

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