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£13 billion cost of malnutrition must be tackled

Three million people are living at risk of malnutrition in the UK, with the cost of the condition now estimated to be £13 billion every year, a new report reveals today.
The report, Combating Malnutrition: Recommendations for Action, is the culmination of work undertaken by a group of experts in malnutrition, led by BAPEN.

Launched in Parliament today it sets out how the vast majority of those at risk of the condition are living in the community – and not in care homes and hospitals, where the focus of government action has been to date.

It also sets out how the disproportionate burden of malnutrition in deprived areas exacerbates health inequalities. 
The report puts forward 25 actions that the government needs to lead in order to reduce both the cost of the condition to the taxpayer, and the number of those at risk.

Key among these is a call to increase the number of patients who are “screened” for their risk of malnutrition both in the community and on admission to care – recommendations made by NHS watchdog NICE three years ago.
Many of the recommendations are calls for the importance of malnutrition to be reflected in existing government policies, such as in Payment by Results and in the GP contract, and covered by existing regulatory inspections. 
It follows an earlier report,  Improving Nutritional Care and Treatment: Perspectives and Recommendations from Population Groups, Patients and Carers, published by BAPEN in January 2009 which sets out what patients, carers and population groups expect in terms of the nutritional care they receive.
Commenting, Professor Marinos Elia, chair of the Advisory Group on Malnutrition which worked on the report, and immediate past Chair of BAPEN, said: “The evidence is clear and the time is right. Improving the nutritional status of all in the community as well as in hospital and care influences health outcomes and quality of life.

“The policy and regulation frameworks are in place into which many measures to combat malnutrition can be easily slotted.  government and the NHS together with the social care, housing and community sectors must now press forward with embedding nutritional care and treatment into daily practice to combat malnutrition where it starts – in the community.”