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Malnourished patients “not treated”


8 February, 2008  

Up to 70% of malnourished patients leave hospital without receiving any treatment for their condition, experts have said.

This is due to a lack of simple laboratory tests and because nutritional tests can be difficult to interpret in sick patients, an article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) claimed.

Professors Mike Lean, from the University of Glasgow, and Martin Wiseman, from the University of Southampton, said poor screening tools were contributing to the issue.

They also put the high rate down to poor quality hospital food and the lack of staff to help patients with eating.

They pointed to a 1994 study, saying: “Around 70% to 80% of malnourished patients currently enter and leave hospital without action being taken to treat their malnutrition and without the diagnosis appearing on their discharge summary.”

In 2006, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued guidance saying all hospital patients should be screened and monitored regularly for malnutrition.

“However, these standards are weakly policed and are probably insufficient to stop many elderly people becoming malnourished if the quality of food is poor and there is a lack of staff to feed people,” the experts said.

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British Medical Journal