1. ITV Report

Rise in malnourished patients being admitted to hospital

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Over the past 5 years, all the major hospitals in the West have seen a steep rise in the number of malnourished patients being treated.

Malnutrition costs the NHS over £19 billion pounds a year, far more than obesity, and the problem is getting worse.

  • What is Malnutrition?

According to NHS choice it's a serious condition that occurs when a person’s diet doesn't contain the right amount of nutrients. It's a common problem, affecting millions of people in the UK.

  • Common signs and symptoms
  • unintentional weight loss – losing 5-10% or more of weight over three to six months
  • low body weight – people with a body mass index (BMI) under 18.5
  • lack of interest in eating and drinking
  • feeling tired all the time
  • feeling weaker
  • getting ill often and taking a long time to recover
  • children not growing at the expected rate or not putting on weight as expected
Credit: ITV News West Country

Elderly people are particularly at risk because of a number of factors including social isolation, having limited mobility or low income.

We see it quite frequently now. Patients are elderly. They potentially live a lot on their own. They don't necessarily cook for themselves. They don't look after themselves. So when they come in they're in quite a poor nutritional state when they arrive.

– Jacqueline Daley, Nurse, Yeovil Hospital

Our health reporter Caron Bell was granted access to the orthopaedic ward at Yeovil Hospital, where they are trying to tackle the problem.

In 2014, 117 patients admitted to the hospital were diagnosed with malnutrition. That number has risen each year, up to 238 in 2017.

Credit: ITV News West Country

As well as monitoring its patients' meals, Yeovil has developed different ways of encouraging them to eat the right nutrients.

It serves smaller, less intimidating portions, encourages patients to sit up to eat, and for those who can, meals are encouraged to be eaten in groups.

Malnourishment is something which very much affects the older age group - so we're looking at patients who are over 75, usually in their 80s and 90s. With medicine as it is nowadays, we see lots of patients in their 80s and 90s and that's where it becomes a real problem.

– Oliver Donaldson, Orthopaedic Consultant, Yeovil Hospital