In 2013 and 2014 we completed work in partnership with Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust that looked to identify opportunities to improve standards of patient food in the hospital.
In 2015 & 2016 we worked in partnership with the workforce development team at Kirklees Council to try to understand more about the food and nutrition that people experience in residential care.
We visited 8 homes, talking to residents, carers, cooks and staff, and analyzing the menu’s that were provided in each home for nutritional content.
5% of the UK’s elderly population reside in care homes, many of whom are frail and experience multiple health risks. Part of the service delivery in residential care includes the provision of food and drink, which influences the physical and social health of residents. Research surrounding the nutritional status of the elderly highlights the risk of under-nutrition in care even though food provision in itself is adequate – an estimated 41% of hospital admissions surrounding malnutrition derive from care home settings as it predisposes the elderly to diseases, falls and hinders their recovery from illness.
Locally, issues around food quality, nutrition levels and the impact of nutrition and hydration on wellbeing and hospital admissions have been identified, including the skill levels of workers who are required to prepare safe and nourishing meals. Residential care food provision is monitored by various UK organisations, but these generally focus on food safety as opposed to nutritional content. There is evidence to show that food served contains high levels of fat, salt and free sugars, reflected in Healthwatch Kirklees’ research and highlighting the lack of knowledge of staff working in care homes who design the menus, rather than qualified professionals who understand the nutritional requirements of the elderly.
Healthwatch Kirklees’ research found various obstacles impeding adequate nutrition and hydration for people in care homes – staff knowledge and training, time pressures, budgets and differing policies surrounding supplementation or mealtimes, all of which impact the vulnerable people who rely on the care they receive in the home. Food provision needs to be more carefully considered with the provision of additional hands-on assistance in order to ensure menus and cooking methods meet the nutritional needs of service users. Eating is an activity in care homes, but it should also be seen as a form of therapy in its own right that maintains or improves health, no matter what level of health that may be.
As a result of our work a Nutrition and Hydration Action Plan 2016-17 has been agreed by Kirklees Council that looks to address many of the issues we raised with commissioners.
To view the full report please click here: Nutrition-Residential-Care-Report