Official figures reveal that people with malnutrition accounted for 184,528 hospital bed days last year, a huge rise on 65,048 in 2006-07. The Department of Health figures showed that the number of bed days accounted for by someone with a primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition rose from 128,361 in 2010-11, the year the coalition came to power, to 184,528 last year – a 61% rise over five years.
The upward trend is a result of rising poverty, deep cutbacks in recent years to meals on wheels services for the elderly and inadequate social care support, especially for older people. The National Association of Care Catering found that only 48% of local councils still provided meals on wheels, compared to 66% in 2014. Only 17% of councils in the north-west of England still do so, and 91% of providers expect the provision to fall further in the next year.
Simon Bottery, the director of policy at the charity Independent Age, said: “These new figures on malnutrition are genuinely shocking. As a society there is no excuse for us failing to ensure that older people are able to eat enough food, of the right quality, to stay healthy. Yet we have been cutting back the meals on wheels services and lunch clubs on which so many vulnerable elderly people relied and reducing the numbers who receive home care visits.”
Dianne Jeffrey, the chair of the Malnutrition Task Force and Age UK, said: “It is shocking that in modern times over a million older people across the UK are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.”