***Conference News Special***Conference News Special***Conference News Special***
Exposing the “national scandal” of the UK’s starving population
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) attended the TUC conference in Brighton to highlight their current Mind the Hunger Gap campaign and to present a stark and hard-hitting motion to attending delegates, which was unanimously supported (Monday 10th September 2012). The motion was presented to delegates by the BDA Trade Union Board Chairman, Dennis Edmondson, and was seconded by the President of the GMB Union and Honorary President of the BDA, Mary Turner MBE.
The shocking motion (detailed in Notes to Editor), highlighted the fact that today in the UK an estimated one million older people living in their own homes are eating less than one meal per day and are suffering from malnutrition. This figure does not include those older people in hospital and care settings, and the motion goes on to call on the Government to ring-fence funding to ensure meal provision in the community for older people is protected.
The BDA is the professional association for registered dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with approximately 7,000 members. The BDA also operates as a trade union.
The TUC Conference, entitled A Future That Works, took place at the Brighton Centre in Brighton (9-12 March 2012).
The title of the motion, Mind the Hunger Gap, was in direct reference to the BDA’s current national campaign called Mind the Hunger Gap, which aims to highlight the issue of malnutrition in older people living in their own homes.
Poor nutrition and hydration leads to poor health, prolonged hospital length of stay and increased costs to the NHS. The consequences of poor nutrition and hydration are well documented and include a greater risk of infection, poor skin integrity and delayed wound healing, decreased muscle strength, depression and, sadly, premature death.
While The World Health Organization cites malnutrition as the greatest single threat to the world’s public health, it is still widely believed that malnutrition is restricted to the third world population. Quite simply, it is not.
Debbie O’Rourke, Head of Employment Relations at the BDA, commented:
“People are always shocked to the core by the scandalous levels of malnutrition that exist in the UK today, even by the very fact that malnutrition exists in this country at all. Malnutrition is not a problem that only affects the third world. Very sadly it is very much here... in our communities... on our doorstep.
“It is the year 2012 and it is an absolute national disgrace that on any given day, there are one million older people sitting behind their front doors going hungry.”
“I am very grateful that out motion was so strongly supported and I very much look forward to taking this message to our elected politicians across the UK.”
More information about the BDA’s Mind the Hunger Gap campaign can be found at www.mindthehungergap.com.
|For more information / interview requests, please contact Steven Jenkins the BDA Press Office on: 0800 048 1714|
Notes to the Editor:
- The BDA motion to the TUC conference reads:
Mind the Hunger Gap campaign
Conference is shocked to learn that an estimated one million older people in the UK eat less than one meal a day.
This scandalous ‘hunger gap’ contributes to the massive problem of malnutrition that impacts on people regardless of age, gender or race, costing the NHS over £13bn - twice the financial burden of obesity.
The British Dietetic Association’s ‘Mind the Hunger Gap’ campaign highlights this major public health issue and will focus particularly on the plight of older people living in the community.
Poverty, social isolation and fragmented services have left many older people excluded and invisible.
Dietitians, the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat nutrition problems, have the expertise to lead the nutrition pathway across the health and social care system.
With social care budgets being devolved for local implementation, there is now an important opportunity to plan collaborative solutions to protect and enhance current services.
Congress notes that dietitians will engage with key policy-makers and unions to raise the importance of malnutrition and asks the General Council to call on politicians to protect at least one meal a day by ring-fencing funding to ensure that meal provision continues to lie at the heart of community care.
Mind the Hunger Gap Facts & Figures
- More than 3 million people in the UK are at risk of malnutrition with the vast majority, about 93%, living in the community setting, 5% in residential care and 2% in hospital.
- One million older people in the United Kingdom eat less than one meal a day.
- Greater use of healthcare and costs associated with malnutrition mean:
- 65% more GP visits;
- 82% more hospital admissions;
- 30% longer hospital stay.
- The health and social care costs in the United Kingdom directly associated with malnutrition comes to more than £13 billion per annum (based on 2007 prices).
Problems associated with malnutrition include:
- Poorer immune responses, meaning the likelihood of infections and ill health is greatly increased.
- Reduced muscle strength.
- Weaker respiratory (breathing) muscles, which result in breathing problems and frequent chest infections.
- More difficulty keeping warm.
- Slower wound healing and longer time needed to recover from Illness.
- Low mood, little interest in everyday activities and self neglect.
- Increased amount of admissions and readmissions to hospital, and longer time spent on each admission.
In the fight against malnutrition, dietitians should:
- Provide specialised dietary advice.
- Be involved in the early stages once a patient has been screened.
- Be an integral member of the secondary and primary care teams.
- Help devise and implement effective nutrition policy locally.
- Take a lead in the coordinating a nutrition steering committee/group in the hospital and community environment to ensure provision of appropriate nutritional management, care pathways and monitoring happens.
- Offer appropriate nutrition advice on an individual/group level.
- Train and support other healthcare professionals on how to identify risk of malnutrition.
- Assess an individual’s nutritional/dietary requirements.
- Contribute to delivering cost effective services.
- Visit the BDA website at www.bda.uk.com.
- Visit the Mind the Hunger Gap campaign website at www.mindthehungergap.com
- Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, Non Government Organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.