7th May 2009 - 00:00
A government plan to reduce malnutrition among NHS patients has had little impact on care, a Health Service Journal (HSJ) survey has found.
Out of the 400 managers and health workers who responded to the survey, nearly a quarter said the Department of Health's nutrition action plan, launched in October 2007, had improved care "not much" or "not at all". Further research found that 17% felt it had improved care "a lot", 30% said "a little", while 29% did not know. One respondent went as far as saying that nutrition was "taking a back seat" in comparison to other priorities. However, another respondent disagreed with this stating that the plan "has allowed us to structure our actions and given us an audit trail by which to measure improvement". Age Concern and Help the Aged head of public affairs Patrick South said the findings showed there were "huge inconsistencies" in the extent to which malnutrition was being tackled in hospitals. The plan called for hospitals to set up nutrition screening groups or support teams, which 58% of respondents said was the case at their trust. Meanwhile less than one in five managers at primary care trusts or local authorities said their organisation acted immediately where commissioned services were providing poor nutritional care. And 22% said the primary care trust or local authority they worked for monitored the performance of local providers using data from regulators and patients. So where do we go from here? A department of Health spokesman said the nutritional plan delivery board will submit to ministers a final report to assess how well the plan is doing.