Professor Marinos Elia said the condition continued to be under-detected and under-treated even though it affected more than three million people in Britain and cost an estimated £13bn per year to deal with.
Adequate nourishment in hospitals and care homes is a major issue following the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal with the Government pledging to raise standards of care – including ensuring that patients receive adequate food and fluids.
The consultant physician at Southampton General Hospital has now set up five statements for nutritional best practice on behalf of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) – the authority that helps develop health standards in England.
A care plan will see details of a patient’s nutritional needs transferred with them from service to service in what the expert said was a simple and rational improvement.
“Malnutrition is a common and costly problem that leads to detrimental effects on individuals in hospitals and in the community and it needs to be taken more seriously,” Mr Elia explained.
“At present we have too many services settling for inadequate standards – the Care Quality Commission has recently confirmed that nearly a fifth of hospitals and nursing homes are not meeting at least one basic or essential standard in nutrition and hydration – and that is unacceptable.”
Malnutrition occurs when a person’s diet does not contain enough or the right balance of nutrients, leaving sufferers vulnerable to illness, delayed recovery and it weakens the effects of medical treatments.
National surveys from the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (Bapen) found that 29 per cent of adults admitted to hospital, 18 per cent in mental health units and 35 per cent in care homes are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.