An influential cross-party group of MPs has called for care home staff to be trained in screening the elderly for malnutrition.
The call comes in a new report published this week by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger.
The report calls on Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt to ensure that care staff are trained to use the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool, or an equivalent mechanism, to identify older people who are at risk of malnutrition and ensure they receive appropriate food and support to improve their condition.
On the most recent estimate, 1.3m older people were malnourished or at risk of malnutrition at a cost of £11.9bn to health and social care services.
The cross-party group estimates this figure will rise to £13bn by 2020 and £15.7bn by 2030.
The report recommends social care providers are given the duty and appropriate funding to ensure elderly people at risk of malnutrition receive at least one hot meal a day with nutritional supplements if necessary.
Care providers should also be given responsibility to ensure older people receive the necessary help to prepare meals and undertake any other activities that can help keep malnutrition at bay.
Margaret Wilcox, President of ADASS, was critical of the report’s findings, arguing it was the “wrong approach” to impose a further duty on social care providers.
“The way forward is to deliver more personalised care, and that requires more resources, not more rules,” she said.
“Placing more duties on already-pressured social care staff to tackle one issue, rather than providing the funding needed to address the underlying care crisis, will hinder rather than help.
“If new duties are imposed, then as a bare minimum social care providers must be given adequate funding to ensure they are effective carried out, otherwise sorting out one human tragedy will create another, as resources are pushed from pillar to post.”