[SIZE=6] Huge rise in hospital beds in England taken up by people with malnutrition [/SIZE]
Critics blame three-fold rise in poverty, cutbacks to meals on wheels services for the elderly and inadequate social care
‘Poverty is causing vulnerable people … to go hungry and undernourished,’ shadow health secretary says. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Denis Campbell Health policy editor
Friday 25 November 2016 17.26 GMT Last modified on Friday 25 November 2016 17.43 GMT
The number of hospital beds in England taken up by patients being treated for malnutrition has almost trebled over the last ten years, official figures reveal, in what charities say shows the “genuinely shocking” extent of hunger and poor diet.
Beds in hospitals were occupied a total of 180,528 times last year – a huge rise on the 65,048 seen in 2006-07. The sharp increase is adding to the pressures on hospitals, which are already struggling with record levels of overcrowding.
Critics have said 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.
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, unearthed the figures in a response to a recent parliamentary question submitted to health minister Nicola Blackwood.
“These figures paint a grim picture of Britain under the Conservatives,” he said. “Real poverty is causing vulnerable people, particularly the elderly, to go hungry and undernourished, so much so that they end up in hospital.
“Our research reveals a shocking picture of levels of malnutrition in 21st-century England and the impact it has on our NHS. This is unacceptable in modern Britain.”
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.
Such patients only account for one in 256 of all hospital bed days, or 0.4% of the 47.3m total. However, the financial cost is considerable as each bed costs the NHS on average £400 a day to staff and each spell in hospital because of the condition lasts on average 22 to 23 days.