Date Published: 30 November 2006

Nutrition is an essential part of basic patient care, according to BMA Scotland

The BMA in Scotland has welcomed the publication of an Audit Scotland report into catering for patients in hospital which found that progress had been made on recommendations made in an initial review in 2003.

The report however identified a need for routine screening for under-nutrition of patients on admission to hospital and for all NHS Boards to have systems for ensuring the nutritional balance of patient meals.

The BMA’s lead on nutritional issues, Dr Sumantra Ray, said:

" Since 2003 it has been mandatory, under NHS quality standards, for patients to be screened for risk of under-nutrition on admission to hospital, but the Audit Scotland report has clearly identified that there are still barriers to the implementation of these standards in our hospitals.

_ Ensuring patients receive adequate nutrition is an essential part of basic patient care as well as a basic human right as highlighted by the Council of Europe. Despite this, hospital malnutrition remains a major problem in the NHS and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency. It is estimated that UK-wide, malnutrition costs the NHS £7.3 billion a year.

_ It is ironic that, at a time when the importance of eating well is high on the health agenda, that this is not mirrored in our hospitals."

Dr Ray, who is both a fully trained Registered Nutritionist and Registered Medical Doctor working as a Clinical Research and Teaching Fellow at the University of Dundee, added:

" Based on extrapolated data, at least 40% of patients admitted to hospitals in this country are undernourished, 10% higher than the EU average. Under-nutrition can contribute to prolonged ill health, clinical complications, delayed recovery and therefore longer hospital stays.

_ There is an urgent need for multi-professional nutrition education to improve hospital food in general and to manage the burden of hospital malnutrition. The BMA is currently leading a tentative project (within the framework of the Council of Europe Alliance (UK) on Hospital Food and Nutritional Care) to assess the need for nutritional education in UK medical schools and to inform curriculum planners of the need for nutrition related skills required by all doctors.

_ There is also a need to make special meals more widely available by hospital caterers to take account of specific dietary requirements, especially for vegetarians or the 6-7% of British people who are registered gluten sensitive."

In its recently published election manifesto, Priorities for Health¸ the BMA in Scotland called for mandatory standards for all meals provided by the public sector, including hospital meals.

Source: British Medical Association, UK

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