Amid growing concerns of malnutrition, emergency staff at an NHS hospital are being asked to offer food boxes discreetly to patients they believe may benefit as they are discharged.
Tameside hospital in Greater Manchester also plans to open a permanent food bank collection centre inside the hospital next month.
This will be to help not only the patients but also locals in the area.
The Guardian reports:
News of the move came after it was announced on Wednesday by the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith that job advisers have been posted in a food bank in Manchester as part of a trial set to be rolled out across the UK.
Bosses at Tameside hospital said they had made the decision after doctors and nurses became worried about what they said was a significant rise in patients showing signs of malnourishment, and also staff living locally becoming worried about some neighbours. Staff have been given training to spot malnourishment.
Tameside hospital’s chief executive, Karen James, said: “I was talking to an old lady recovering on a ward, who was in financial difficulties and chose to feed her dog first after paying the bills, whilst she went without. It’s heartrending.”
Elsewhere, the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham opened a food and clothing bank on its main premises earlier this month, and a spokeswoman said on Wednesday that they had been inundated with donations. In the summer the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle began offering parcels to parents using its neonatal care unit.
The number of people admitted to hospitals in England and Wales with malnutrition has risen dramatically, from 5,469 to 6,520 in the past year, according to the latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The European Nutrition for Health Alliance (ENHA), meanwhile, has estimated that up to 40% of patients in the UK are malnourished on hospital admission and many go undiagnosed due to inadequate screening.
At Tameside hospital emergency food boxes will be made up for staff in A&E to hand out discreetly, in reusable carrier bags, to those patients they feel would benefit once they are discharged and allowed home.
As well as the food parcels in A&E, a primary aim is to collect food in the hospital to distribute throughout the area and raise the level of nutrition across Tameside. Doctors say it will help stop patients who have been discharged coming straight back in again a few days later because they are unable to make a proper recovery due to lack of nutrition.
NHS figures recently showed that Victorian era diseases like malnutrition were on the increase in Britain, mainly due to poverty and British austerity.
Compared to data collected in 2011, malnutrition numbers have risen by 50 per cent, with 7,366 people admitted to hospital with a malnutrition diagnosis between August 2014 and July this year, according to the latest figures.