Somewhat ironically Esmee Russell recently published a blog on the Age UK website entitled “Food for Thought”. It reflects the comments Age UK received when they attended the Royal College of Nursing Conference, in response to questions about why older patients are malnourished in the NHS. According to some statistics, 185,000 people left hospital in 2008-09 malnourished .
The usual excuses were trotted out by the nurses they spoke to:-
- “The food is poor quality”
- “We need more money spent on food”
- “Meal times are too short”
- “There are not enough nurses to feed residents who need help”
These are hardly rocket science matters to solve, so what is fundamentally behind the issue? The basic problem is a lack of leadership. The nursing profession has been deflected by the RCN into chasing academic qualifications at the expense of patient care. Meanwhile, the RCN has also tied NHS managers in knots over rigid personnel practices and a concern for their own liability, rather than ensuring that the patients’ needs come first.
The nurse matrons of old would never have allowed this to happen !
There is a supreme irony in Age UK reporting on this, especially when they had earlier produced a very good report on malnutrition in the NHS.
At their own Annual Conference, “Agenda for Later Life 2011”, they had a perfect opportunity to question Jo Webber, the Deputy Director of the National Health Confederation, who was one of their platform speakers. Instead, they allowed her to tell everyone how well the NHS was doing, how committed the staff were to learning lessons and how patient satisfaction was very high.
Whether out of wrong-headed politeness or misplaced tactics, there was not a murmur about malnutrition and Jo Webber walked away with her head still in the clouds.
If malnutrition doesn’t stir Age UK into some firebrand preaching, what will?
Where is the Age UK rage?