New guidance to raise awareness of the importance of good nutritional care

NHS England has today published new guidance to help ensure patients receive excellent nutrition and hydration care.

The guidance has been produced to address the issues raised within ‘Hard Truths’ and the Francis Report; and to the concerns of patient, carers and the public with regard to malnutrition and dehydration.

Malnutrition is still a concern for the health service and is more common than many people expect – affecting more than three million people in the UK at any one time.

Around 1 in 3 patients admitted to hospital or who are in care homes are malnourished or at risk of becoming so.

Poor nutrition and hydration not only harms patients’ health and wellbeing, it can also reduce their ability to recover and leads to increased admissions to hospitals and care homes.

The new guidance draws together the most up-to-date evidence based resources and research to support commissioners to develop strategies to help ensure excellent nutrition and hydration care in acute services and the community.

It also outlines why commissioners should make this issue a priority – how to tackle the problem, how to assess the impact of commissioned services and highlighting the good work which is already underway.

Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “The link between nutrition and hydration and a person’s health is a fundamental part of any stage of life, but all the more so for the sick or vulnerable.

“Person-focused, quality compassionate care involves looking at what matters to a person as a whole, not only concentrating on their specific medical condition.

“The aim of this new guidance is to raise awareness around the need for good nutrition and hydration and recognise we all have a role to play in improving the health and well-being of those in our care.”

Dianne Jeffrey, Chair of the Malnutrition Task Force and Chairman of Age UK  said: “There are countless reasons why we need to take nutrition and hydration issues seriously. People, particularly older people’ who are malnourished and dehydrated are more likely to become ill, will take longer to recover from surgery and illness and have longer stays in hospital. Yet despite these compelling reasons to take action, recent reports still show nutrition and hydration are not a top priority in many care settings.

“So I’m delighted today to see the new guidance from NHS England which puts nutrition and hydration at the heart of good health and care where it belongs, supporting commissioners to deliver compassionate, person-centred and clinically effective nutrition and hydration services. Getting this right for the millions of people at risk of malnutrition and dehydration or who need help with eating and drinking is vital. After all it’s only what we would want for ourselves or a loved one.”

The new guidance was developed in collaboration with NHS clinical commissioning groups, local authorities, patient groups, expert nutrition groups; representatives from the catering industry, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA), the Department of Health, as well as people who use health care services and their carers.

Take a look at the new nutritional and hydration guidance.