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Latest figures on the prevalence of malnutrition in Irish hospitals presented at BAPEN 2010

Mar 14, 2011 - 10:16 AM

32% of patients admitted to hospital are at risk of malnutrition, the majority of these (75%) being at high risk. Comparable figures exist in Northern Ireland where 36% of patients admitted to hospital were identified as at risk of malnutrition. These are the results from the 2010 Nutrition Screening Week which were presented at the British Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition Annual Conference in Harrogate, England on November 3rd. This survey included 1611 patients from 27 hospitals in the Republic of Ireland. Interestingly, up to 70% of patients discharged from hospital weigh less than on admission, suggesting that patient’s nutritional status deteriorates across their hospital stay. Doctors and healthcare managers are said to be largely unaware of the role that malnutrition plays in hampering recovery from illness, causing significant additional medical complications that lead to extended hospital stays and increased need for long term care after discharge. This all leads to a very substantial drain on an already overburdened health system and incurs massive cost. A landmark report published earlier this year suggested that the economic burden of malnutrition is likely to exceed €1.5 billion annually, which is an astonishing 10% of our entire healthcare budget. Rapid identification of patients at risk of malnutrition, combined with appropriate dietetic intervention and medical nutritional treatment, is essential to enhance the nutritional status of hospitalised patients, thus improving their medical outcome and reducing cost of care.

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