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Elderly Patients

Volume 453: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps her Department is taking to prevent malnutrition of older people in hospital. (104523)

Preventing, and treating, malnutrition is complex and depends on good food, careful assessment and skilled clinical care.

The better hospital food (BHF) programme has improved the quality and availability of hospital food. Patient environment action team (PEAT) scores show that hospital food has continued to improve since 2001.

The BHF programme closed in April 2006. Responsibility for building on the foundations of the BHF programme now rests with the national health service, with support from the National Patient Safety Association (NPSA). Resources such as the menu planner will still be available.

Via the NPSA, we are taking action on two major issues; screening patients on admission to identify those at risk of malnutrition, and extending the use of protected mealtimes so that patients can concentrate on eating, and staff can give the help they need.

We are also working with a number of organisations at grass-roots level. For instance, recommendations from the Council of Europe are now being implemented by the Hospital Caterers’ Association and the British Dietetic Association, via an alliance of interested parties. This is an example of the Department leading the development of recommendations, with the NHS taking up the challenge of implementation.

“Choosing Health” gave a commitment to establish nutritional standards for the armed forces, the NHS and prisons, and this work is now under way. Experts in the Food Standards Agency and Purchasing and Supply Agency are involved.

We will continue monitoring via PEAT inspections, the Healthcare Commission’s annual healthcheck and patient surveys.