The Call to Action was launched at a conference where delegates were told that the large number of under-nourished patients within the Irish health care system is overlooked and patients are not receiving adequate nutritional care.
The Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (IRSPEN) in association with the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute (INDI) and the European Nutrition for Health Alliance (ENHA) has drawn up this ‘Call to Action’. Inadequately nourished patients have more complications, their bodies less able to take the strain of medical treatment and they have poorer outcomes. There is a three-time greater risk of infection, people are almost three times more likely to die (age dependent) and stay in hospital average 30% longer. It also makes economic sense poorly nourished people are more likely to need long-term care.
MS Ireland is supporting the call as people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are at a higher risk of malnutrition and more likely require specialised nutrition support.
The key actions contained in the document include:
• Effective public education campaigns to highlight the risks of malnutrition.
• Mandatory nutrition-risk screening in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
• Nutrition training for all healthcare professionals.
• New Quality Standards for the nutritional care that patients should receive
• Decisive commitment and action by Government to adhere to ‘the Prague Declaration’*.
The report also highlights the very serious deficits in the support available to patients on home nutritional support (i.e. patients being fed by tube or intravenously), many of whom are left largely to their own devices once discharged from the hospital.
IRSPEN Chairman, Professor John Reynolds (also head of Surgery in St. James’ Hospital) renewed an earlier call to the Minister for Health to fully recognise malnutrition as a critical health priority:
“Unfortunately, I find myself once again calling on the government to give malnutrition the attention that it deserves. Every patient has a basic human right to have their nutritional and care needs met and to receive the support required in order to ensure malnutrition is prevented. Incredibly, for such a serious condition, combating malnutrition within our healthcare system still languishes as a low priority compared to other conditions and diseases which have far less human and financial costs. This needs to change”.
The reality is most cases of malnutrition are preventable but only if people are cared for and supported to the appropriate standards. To put the malnourished people in terms of healthcare economics, their malnutrition costs €1.4billion per year. Beyond the numbers, the loss of dignity and human suffering makes it incumbent that the Government take steps to implement the recommendations in this Call to Action.
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