Nutrition and Hydration Week 2015: Prevent Malnutrition in Your Service

March 16th marks the start of Nutrition and Hydration Week 2015, a collaboration between the Hospital Caterers Association, National Association of Care Catering and Patient Safety Domain NHS England, to promote awareness of nutrition and hydration as an important part of quality care, experience and safety improvement in health and social care settings.

Statistics published by the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN), suggest that over 3 million people in the UK are affected by malnutrition, with almost half being over the age of 65 and with the vast majority (93%) living in their own homes. Of those who move into care homes, BAPEN estimates that 30-42% are at risk of malnutrition at the point of admission, highlighting the importance of promoting nutritional awareness amongst care staff working in both community and care home based settings. Read on to find out more about this year’s Nutrition and Hydration Week and how you can access specialist nutritional information and resources to prevent malnutrition within your service.

Now in its 4th year, Nutrition and Hydration Week is a global campaign supported by organisations including BAPEN, the British Dietetic Association and the Royal College of Nursing. The event provides a timely opportunity to improve your own approach to nutrition and hydration, including the identification of its 6 aims to improve the quality of nutrition and hydration within care services.

6 Aims to Prevent Malnutrition in Your Service Users

Aim 1: The 10 key characteristics of good nutritional care. Originally developed by the Council of Europe, these widely recognised characteristics provide a framework to providing good nutritional care:

  1. Everyone using healthcare and care services is screened to identify those who are malnourished or at risk of becoming malnourished.
  2. Everyone using care services has a personal care support plan and, where possible, has had personal input to identify their nutritional care and fluid needs and how they are to be met.
  3. The care provider must include specific guidance on food and beverage services and nutritional care in its service delivery and accountability arrangements.
  4. People using care services are involved in the planning and monitoring arrangements for food service and beverage/drinks provision.
  5. An environment conducive to people enjoying their meals and being able to safely consume their food and drinks is maintained (this can be known as ‘Protected Mealtimes’).
  6. All staff/volunteers have the appropriate skills and competencies needed to ensure that the nutritional and fluid needs of people using care services are met. All staff/volunteers receive regular training on nutritional care and management.
  7. Facilities and services are designed to be flexible and centred on the needs of the people using them.
  8. The care-providing organisation has a policy for food service and nutritional care, which is centred on the needs of people using the service. Performance in delivering care effectively, is managed in line with local governance and regulatory frameworks.
  9. Food service and nutritional care is provided safely.
  10. Everyone working in the organisation values the contribution of people using the service and all others in the successful delivery of nutritional care.

Aim 2: Protected mealtimes. Although protected mealtimes have received greater attention within NHS settings, the principles can be applied within social care settings to ensure that nutritional care is delivered effectively. Avoiding non-urgent interruptions at mealtimes will improve the quality of the dining experience for service users and is likely to lead to improved nutritional intake.

Aim 3: Nutrition advocates for each health or social care setting. Identifying advocates for nutritional care can be a valuable tool in raising standards. By giving designated staff members the responsibility for monitoring food quality, gathering feedback from service users and carrying out nutrition-linked audits, the information collected can be used as part of your quality improvement programme to ensure that your service meets service user needs effectively.

Aim 4: Minimum standards for good nutrition in all settings. Care providers often find it difficult to obtain accurate information about nutritional standards and can find conflicting advice from different sources. However, the British Dietetic Association provides comprehensive guidance in its ‘Nutrition and Hydration Digest: Improving Outcomes through Food and Beverage Services’, available here.

Aim 5: Sharing good nutrition and hydration practices. One of the most important aspects of Nutrition and Hydration Week 2015, is the sharing of good practice between services with a number of examples being found on its website. Using opportunities to continue this principle within larger multi-site organisations, or at local networking groups, allows for the continued sharing of good practice and innovative ideas.

Aim 6: Continued education for professionals on good nutrition and hydration. Although most providers ensure that staff receive nutrition training, it is important to ensure this is refreshed regularly and is appropriate to the staff member’s role. Most training will cover aspects such as nutritional content of food but may not provide sufficient focus on practical aspects of nutrition, such as assisting service users to eat and drink or understanding swallowing problems, without which, even the most nutritionally sound food is unlikely to provide the benefits that it should.

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