Social care providers ‘should deal with malnutrition of elderly’

22 Jan 18

Hidden hunger and malnutrition among older people has reached such a scale that social care providers should be put under a new duty to deal with it, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger has said.

It proposed providers should be given a duty to ensure older people at risk of malnutrition received at least one hot meal every day, paid for in part by withdrawal of the winter fuel payment from more affluent pensioners.

The idea that the government might impose the duty without funding it was condemned by the Association of Director of Adult Social Services (ADASS), which feared it would mean pressured budgets spread yet more thinly.

Some 1.3m older people are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, a report by the APPGH Hidden Hunger and Malnutrition in the Elderly has found.

This arose in some cases from poverty, but the main cause was social isolation.

It said malnutrition was rarely recorded as a primary reason for hospital admission – as some other condition was usually more evident - but figures from the House of Commons Library showed primary diagnoses of malnutrition among people aged 60 more than trebled in the decade to 2015-16; from 283 to 921.

The group – which comprises interested MPs and does not have the status of a select committee – said malnutrition among older people gave the NHS and social care services a large and growing bill, which it estimated at £11.9bn now, and £15.7bn by 2030, driven by more frequent and longer hospital admission.

It said: “We believe that targeted investment in services which protect older people from malnutrition would deliver significant annual savings to the NHS, not least by reducing the number of hospital admissions and limiting the number of days older people spend in hospital.”

ADASS president Margaret Willcox said: “Imposing a further duty on social care providers is the wrong approach. The way forward is to deliver more personalised care, and that requires more resources, not more rules.

“Placing more duties on already-pressured social care staff to tackle one issue, rather than providing the funding needed to address the underlying care crisis, will hinder rather than help.”

Wilcox said that if a new duty was imposed then adequate funding must follow otherwise “sorting out one human tragedy will create another, as resources are pushed from pillar to post”.  

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