NHS England Publishes New Nutritional and Hydration Guidance

NHS England has published a set of new guidelines intended to ensure that patients receive outstanding nutrition and hydration care while in hospital.

The guidance is particularly intended to address issues raised within ‘Hard Truths’ and the Francis Report.

‘Hard Truths: The Journey to Putting Patients First’ is the first volume of the government’s response to the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry.

This followed on from the so-called Francis Report, which followed an extensive inquiry into failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

Robert Francis QC published his final report on 6th February 2013.

With this in mind, NHS England has moved to address the concerns of patients, carers and the public with regard to malnutrition and dehydration.

Although many people may not associate malnutrition with an advanced Western society such as the UK, the occurrence of this debilitating nutritional condition is actually surprisingly common.

Malnutrition in fact effects in the region of three million people in the UK at any given time.

Furthermore, around one-in-three patients admitted to hospital, or who are currently resident in care homes, are either malnourished or at risk of developing the condition.

Nutrition and hydration also has a significant influence over the recovery potential of patients.

It also tends to increase the number of people who are admitted to both hospitals and care homes.

Thus, the new guidance draws together the most up-to-date evidence-based resources and research available on the subject.

The guidance has the intention of supporting health commissioners, and communicating strategies to be developed that will help to ensure outstanding nutrition and hydration care in acute services across the health service.

There is also information contained within the guidance outlining the importance of this issue, and why commissioners should look to make it a particular priority.

How to tackle the problem and how to assess the impact of commissioned services are both addressed, while highlighting the good work which is already underway is also a focus of the guidance.

Commenting on this issue, Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, was keen to outline its importance.

“The link between nutrition and hydration and a person’s health is a fundamental part of any stage of life, but all the more so for the sick or vulnerable. Person-focused, quality compassionate care involves looking at what matters to a person as a whole, not only concentrating on their specific medical condition.”

Cummings also spoke on the goals of the new documentation.

“The aim of this new guidance is to raise awareness around the need for good nutrition and hydration and recognise we all have a role to play in improving the health and well-being of those in our care,” Cummings stated.

Dianne Jeffrey, Chair of the Malnutrition Task Force and Chairman of Age UK, was in agreement on the importance of the issues addressed by the guidance.

“There are countless reasons why we need to take nutrition and hydration issues seriously. People, particularly older people’ who are malnourished and dehydrated are more likely to become ill, will take longer to recover from surgery and illness and have longer stays in hospital. Yet despite these compelling reasons to take action, recent reports still show nutrition and hydration are not a top priority in many care settings,” Jeffrey commented.

The new guidance was developed in collaboration with NHS clinical commissioning groups, local authorities, patient groups, expert nutrition groups; representatives from the catering industry, the Care Quality Commission, NHS Trust Development Authority, the Department of Health, as well as people who use healthcare services and their carers.

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