Number of elderly patients starving in NHS wards doubles to 30,000 in two years
Last updated at 12:53 AM on 30th July 2008
At least 30,000 patients were left starving on NHS wards last year, despite ministers’ pledges to make proper nutrition in hospitals a priority.
Last year, Health Minister Ivan Lewis admitted that some patients were given a single scoop of mash as a meal.
Others were ‘tortured’ with trays of food placed just beyond their reach while nurses said they were too busy to help them eat.
Suffering: Cases of poor
nutrition jumped 88% between 2005 and 2007
And now, official figures show that between 2005 and 2007, there was an 88 per cent rise in reported cases of poor nutrition leading to a serious deterioration in a patient’s health.
Last year, NHS whistleblowers reported 29,138 such
errors to the National Patient Safety Agency – up from
15,473 in 2005.
They refer to elderly patients who are not properly fed and those given the wrong types of food, causing their health to worsen.
As the figures only represent reported cases, actual numbers are likely to be even greater.
The statistics, released in a parliamentary answer to
the Tories, exposed huge regional variations.
There was a 248 per cent rise in the North East and a 178 per cent rise in the West Midlands.
Conservative health spokesman Stephen O’Brien said: ‘People go to hospital expecting to get better, yet in 2007, 29,000 people suffered unnecessarily and completely avoidable harm from poor nutritional care.
‘Ministers have presided over this growing scandal, which I have been highlighting for over two years, and yet this Labour Government have failed to use this 60th anniversary of the NHS to address it.
‘Nutrition is central to health and dignity – how many more patients must suffer at the hands
of this inept Government?’ The Mail has highlighted the lack of help given to frail patients to eat hospital food as part of its Dignity For The Elderly campaign.
And last year, a survey by the Healthcare Commission found that one in five frail and elderly patients complained they did not have enough help when eating.
Half of nurses said there were not enough staff to help those who needed it to eat and drink.
Age Concern says 60 per cent of older patients, who occupy two-thirds of general hospital beds, are at risk of worsening health or becoming malnourished. The over-80s are particularly at risk.
Patrick Smith, from the charity, said: ‘A missed meal
in hospital is just as much of a risk to patient safety
as missing medication for a patient’s recovery.
These figures show NHS staff are concerned that people are not receiving good nutritional care in hospital.
‘Not only do a significant number of older people arrive in hospital already malnourished, but six out of ten are at risk of becoming malnourished, or their situation getting worse, while they are there.
‘If we are to tackle the scourge of malnutrition among older people, all NHS trusts must commit to making nutrition a top priority.’
The Government last year launched a bid to improve hospital food, after Mr Lewis admitted many elderly patients were effectively being starved in hospitals.
Dr Kevin Cleary, medical director of the NPSA, an NHS agency, said a ‘growth in incident reporting’ helps prevent similar occurrences.
‘We recognise that good nutrition and hydration is essential for the recovery of patients. And we support clinicians with guidance to ensure that learning from reported incidents is provided.’