Malnutrition awareness on the menu for hospital Trust

The Nutritional Support Team have been visiting wards and departments across Scunthorpe and Grimsby hospitals to start conversations about what nutritional support patients may need, as well as how and when patients should be screened.

Hannah Crichton, nutritional support nurse, said: “When people think of malnutrition, they often think of someone who is very thin and starving. That’s not necessarily the case, as each and every one of our patients need the right nutrients to help them with their recovery.

“While in hospital, patients can begin to lose muscle mass, which they need to help with the healing process. That’s why patients are screened when they come into hospital, food charts are completed and they are monitored to recognise the signs of malnutrition.

“Another misconception is that losing weight is a natural part of the aging process. This isn’t true and in hospital we keep a close eye on our elderly patients to make sure they’re eating enough. Otherwise it can affect their general well-being and they can end up spending even more time away from their home and family.”

Hannah added: “While in hospital, there are so many ways we can support patients to meet their nutritional needs. Patients have the option to order snacks throughout the day, which can help with increasing their calorie intake. We promote food first for patients and staff are encouraged to fortify foods when a patient is at risk, which they can do by adding full fat butter to potatoes, almonds to porridge and full fat milk or cream in hot drinks. Relatives are also encouraged to bring favourite snacks and foods in for their loved ones too.”

“The catering team are so accommodating and if we have a patient who doesn’t fancy anything from the menu, we can contact them and they’ll try to provide an alternative option.

“Where possible, we even encourage families to bring in their loved ones favourite meals or snacks and assist with feeding too.”

It’s crucial patients are screened at the right time during their hospital stay so steps can be put in place to reduce malnutrition risks. If there are signs of malnutrition all members of staff caring for them will be aware that they need some extra support. They can also be referred to the dietetics team who will visit them and provide nutritional support while they’re in hospital.

If you’re concerned that you or one of your loved ones may be malnourished or at risk of being malnourished, please visit the BAPEN website and use the self-screening tool to check. There are many resources and support options available, with more details on the website.

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