Disease-related malnutrition is costing the NHS and social care sector, g the sector £22.6 billion annually a report has revealed.
Campaigners are highlighting the urgency of identifying underweight or rapidly deteriorating patients to ensure they receive the necessary nutritional support.
Timely diagnosis and improved assistance would reduce hospital stays, ease the strain on GPs, support patients’ recovery and prevent expensive re-admissions.
The report comes just before the start of Malnutrition Awareness Week 2023, taking place from 6th – 12th November 2023 aimed at raising awareness on the prevalence, signs, symptoms and consequences of malnutrition in older age. Hundreds of organisations, services and teams across the UK are taking part to create energy and focus to highlight and educate people on the implications of malnutrition in older age.
Malnutrition is defined as a deficiency of one or more nutrients resulting in measurable adverse effects on body composition, function or clinical outcome, whilst low-intake dehydration is defined as a deficiency of water due to insufficient drinking . Malnutrition is a risk factor for sarcopenia and frailty, and both conditions increase vulnerability to adverse outcomes and limit quality of life, health and well-being. An estimated 90% of older care home residents have osteoporosis and one third are vitamin D deficient.
The report, by Future Health, has underlined a concerning situation in England where almost three million individuals facing diseases like cancer or dementia are at risk of severe malnutrition, a life-threatening condition. This is currently resulting in 464,000 hospital admissions annually.
Shockingly, despite the high risk, only a mere 2% of these at-risk patients receive a malnutrition diagnosis upon admission.
Lesley Carter, from Age UK and the Malnutrition Task Force, told the Daily Mail: “Older people who are malnourished are at greater risk of falls, hospital admissions and longer periods of recovery. Unfortunately the myth perpetuates that it is ‘normal’ to get thin as we age. Yet malnutrition is largely preventable and treatable.
“This report is a wake-up call for politicians and policymakers who must now tackle the problem.”
Providing healthcare to patients suffering from malnutrition incurs a cost more than three times higher than that for individuals without malnutrition.
The estimated total expense for treating malnourished individuals stands at £22.6 billion, with the majority of these funds directed towards hospital care. The remainder is distributed among social care and primary care services.
As the population ages, the cost of disease-related malnutrition is suspected to surge by an additional £4 billion by 2035.
The report outlines the need for proactive strategies, including improved screening procedures for individuals entering into care services and hospitals. It also highlights the value of implementing digital health assessments to monitor weight fluctuations in patients dealing with these health conditions.