Elderly neglect and malnutrition
Age Concern has warned lives are at risk because nurses do not always have time to feed elderly patients, leading to malnutrition in hospitals. A survey of 500 nurses has shown nine out of 10 did not always have time to help those patients who need help with basic functions such as eating and drinking.
Health Minister Caroline Flint admits there are problems but assures that much is being done to resolve the issue of elderly neglect. A patient's aftercare should be given the same priority as the operation for which they were originally admitted and as such 85,000 extra nurses have been introduced into the NHS and 3,000 matrons to provide a greater level of care. Food, and help with eating it, is an essential part of care, and nurses should be given time to perform this task.
To combat the problems with malnutrition, the NHS has introduced new initiatives, such as prioritised meal times - where nurses focus entirely on patients' eating - and "red tray" policies, where those patients with dietary problems are highlighted. However, a lack of resources within the NHS means many elderly people are left in a vulnerable position and neglected at a time when they need the most help.
But with 60% of older patients occupying two-thirds of general hospital beds, the risk of malnourishment is great. Those aged over 80 are thought to be particularly at risk, with a rate of malnutrition five times higher than the under-50s, according to Age Concern.
Elderly neglect caused by under staffing
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the findings highlighted the serious consequences of under-staffing on hospital wards. This neglect in fact caused further problems, as malnourished patients actually need to stay in hospital for longer and are three times more likely to develop complications during surgery, with a higher mortality rate.
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