1 Guidance

1.1 Organisation of nutrition support in hospital and the community

1.1.1 All healthcare professionals who are directly involved in patient care should receive education and training, relevant to their post, on the importance of providing adequate nutrition. Education and training should cover:

  • nutritional needs and indications for nutrition support

  • options for nutrition support (oral, enteral and parenteral)

  • ethical and legal concepts

  • potential risks and benefits

  • when and where to seek expert advice.

1.1.2 Healthcare professionals should ensure that care provides:

  • food and fluid of adequate quantity and quality in an environment conducive to eating

  • appropriate support, for example, modified eating aids, for people who can potentially chew and swallow but are unable to feed themselves.

1.1.3 Healthcare professionals should ensure that all people who need nutrition support receive coordinated care from a multidisciplinary team.[2]

1.1.4 All acute hospital trusts should have a multidisciplinary nutrition support team which may include: doctors (for example gastroenterologists, gastrointestinal surgeons, intensivists or others with a specific interest in nutrition support), dietitians, a specialist nutrition nurse, other nurses, pharmacists, biochemistry and microbiology laboratory support staff, and other allied healthcare professionals (for example, speech and language therapists).

1.1.5 All hospital trusts should have a nutrition steering committee working within the clinical governance framework.

1.1.6 Members of the nutrition steering committee should be drawn from trust management, and include senior representation from medical staff, catering, nursing, dietetics, pharmacy and other healthcare professionals as appropriate, for example, speech and language therapists.

1.1.7 All acute hospital trusts should employ at least one specialist nutrition support nurse.

1.1.8 The specialist nutrition support nurse should work alongside nursing staff, as well as dietitians and other experts in nutrition support, to:

  • minimise complications related to enteral tube feeding and parenteral nutrition

  • ensure optimal ward-based training of nurses

  • ensure adherence to nutrition support protocols

  • support coordination of care between the hospital and the community.

1.2 Screening for malnutrition and the risk of malnutrition in hospital and the community

1.2.1 Screening for malnutrition and the risk of malnutrition should be carried out by healthcare professionals with appropriate skills and training.

1.2.2 All hospital inpatients on admission and all outpatients at their first clinic appointment should be screened. Screening should be repeated weekly for inpatients and when there is clinical concern for outpatients.

1.2.3 Hospital departments who identify groups of patients with low risk of malnutrition may opt out of screening these groups. Opt-out decisions should follow an explicit process via the local clinical governance structure involving experts in nutrition support.

1.2.4 People in care homes should be screened on admission and when there is clinical concern.[3]

1.2.5 Screening should take place on initial registration at general practice surgeries and when there is clinical concern[3]. Screening should also be considered at other opportunities (for example, health checks, flu injections).

1.2.6 Screening should assess body mass index (BMI)[4] and percentage unintentional weight loss and should also consider the time over which nutrient intake has been unintentionally reduced and/or the likelihood of future impaired nutrient intake. The Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST), for example, may be used to do this.

1.3 Indications for nutrition support in hospital and the community

1.3.1 Nutrition support should be considered in people who are malnourished, as defined by any of the following:

  • a BMI of less than 18.5 kg/m2

  • unintentional weight loss greater than 10% within the last 3–6 months

  • a BMI of less than 20 kg/m2 and unintentional weight loss greater than 5% within the last 3–6 months.

1.3.2 Nutrition support should be considered in people at risk of malnutrition who, as defined by any of the following:

  • have eaten little or nothing for more than 5 days and/or are likely to eat little or nothing for the next 5 days or longer

  • have a poor absorptive capacity, and/or have high nutrient losses and/or have increased nutritional needs from causes such as catabolism.

1.3.3 Healthcare professionals should consider using oral, enteral or parenteral nutrition support, alone or in combination, for people who are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, as defined in 1.3.1 and 1.3.2. Potential swallowing problems should be taken into account.

1.3.4 Healthcare professionals involved in starting or stopping nutrition support should:

  • obtain consent from the patient if he or she is competent

  • act in the patient's best interest if he or she is not competent to give consent

  • be aware that the provision of nutrition support is not always appropriate. Decisions on withholding or withdrawing of nutrition support require a consideration of both ethical and legal principles (both at common law and statute including the Human Rights Act 1998).

    When such decisions are being made guidance issued by the General Medical Council[5] and the Department of Health[6] should be followed.

1.3.5 Healthcare professionals should ensure that people having nutrition support, and their carers, are kept fully informed about their treatment. They should also have access to appropriate information and be given the opportunity to discuss diagnosis and treatment options.

1.4 What to give in hospital and the community

1.4.1 Healthcare professionals who are skilled and trained in nutritional requirements and methods of nutrition support should ensure that the total nutrient intake[7] of people prescribed nutrition support accounts for:

  • energy, protein, fluid, electrolyte, mineral, micronutrients[8] and fibre needs

  • activity levels and the underlying clinical condition – for example, catabolism, pyrexia

  • gastrointestinal tolerance, potential metabolic instability and risk of refeeding problems

  • the likely duration of nutrition support.

1.4.2 For people who are not severely ill or injured, nor at risk of refeeding syndrome, the suggested nutritional prescription for total intake[7] should provide all of the following:

  • 25–35 kcal/kg/day total energy (including that derived from protein[9],[10])

  • 0.8–1.5 g protein (0.13–0.24 g nitrogen)/kg/day

  • 30–35 ml fluid/kg (with allowance for extra losses from drains and fistulae, for example, and extra input from other sources – for example, intravenous drugs)

  • adequate electrolytes, minerals, micronutrients (allowing for any pre-existing deficits, excessive losses or increased demands) and fibre if appropriate.

1.4.3 The prescription should be reviewed according to the person's progress, and care should be taken when:

  • using food fortification which tends to supplement energy and/or protein without adequate micronutrients and minerals

  • using feeds and supplements that meet full energy and nitrogen needs, as they may not provide adequate micronutrients and minerals when only used in a supplementary role

  • using pre-mixed parenteral nutrition bags that have not had tailored additions from pharmacy.

1.4.4 Nutrition support should be cautiously introduced in seriously ill or injured people requiring enteral tube feeding or parenteral nutrition. It should be started at no more than 50% of the estimated target energy and protein needs. It should be built up to meet full needs over the first 24–48 hours according to metabolic and gastrointestinal tolerance. Full requirements of fluid, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals should be provided from the outset of feeding.

1.4.5 People who have eaten little or nothing for more than 5 days should have nutrition support introduced at no more than 50% of requirements for the first 2 days, before increasing feed rates to meet full needs if clinical and biochemical monitoring reveals no refeeding problems.

1.4.6 People who meet the criteria in Box should be considered to be at high risk of developing refeeding problems.

Box 1 Criteria for determining people at high risk of developing refeeding problems

Patient has one or more of the following:

  • BMI less than 16 kg/m2

  • unintentional weight loss greater than 15% within the last 3–6 months

  • little or no nutritional intake for more than 10 days

  • low levels of potassium, phosphate or magnesium prior to feeding.

Or patient has two or more of the following:

  • BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2

  • unintentional weight loss greater than 10% within the last 3–6 months

  • little or no nutritional intake for more than 5 days

  • a history of alcohol abuse or drugs including insulin, chemotherapy, antacids or diuretics.

1.4.7 People at high risk of developing refeeding problems (Box 1) should be cared for by healthcare professionals who are appropriately skilled and trained and have expert knowledge of nutritional requirements and nutrition support.

1.4.8 The prescription for people at high risk of developing refeeding problems should consider:

  • starting nutrition support at a maximum of 10 kcal/kg/day, increasing levels slowly to meet or exceed full needs by 4–7 days

  • using only 5 kcal/kg/day in extreme cases (for example, BMI less than 14 kg/m2 or negligible intake for more than 15 days) and monitoring cardiac rhythm continually in these people and any others who already have or develop any cardiac arrythmias

  • restoring circulatory volume and monitoring fluid balance and overall clinical status closely

  • providing immediately before and during the first 10 days of feeding: oral thiamin 200–300 mg daily, vitamin B co strong 1 or 2 tablets, three times a day (or full dose daily intravenous vitamin B preparation, if necessary) and a balanced multivitamin/trace element supplement once daily

  • providing oral, enteral or intravenous supplements of potassium (likely requirement 2–4 mmol/kg/day), phosphate (likely requirement 0.3–0.6 mmol/kg/day) and magnesium (likely requirement 0.2 mmol/kg/day intravenous, 0.4 mmol/kg/day oral) unless pre-feeding plasma levels are high. Pre-feeding correction of low plasma levels is unnecessary.

1.5 Monitoring of nutrition support in hospital and the community

1.5.1 Healthcare professionals should review the indications, route, risks, benefits and goals of nutrition support at regular intervals. The time between reviews depends on the patient, care setting and duration of nutrition support. Intervals may increase as the patient is stabilised on nutrition support.

1.5.2 People having nutrition support in hospital should be monitored by healthcare professionals with the relevant skills and training in nutritional monitoring.

1.5.3 Healthcare professionals should refer to the protocols for nutritional, anthropometric and clinical monitoring, shown in Table 1, when monitoring people having nutrition support in hospital.

1.5.4 Healthcare professionals should refer to the protocols for laboratory monitoring, shown in Table 2, when monitoring people having nutrition support in hospital. Table 2 is particularly relevant to parenteral nutrition. It could also be selectively applied when enteral or oral nutrition support is used, particularly for people who are metabolically unstable or at risk of refeeding syndrome. The frequency and extent of the observations given may need to be adapted in acutely ill or metabolically unstable people.

1.5.5 People having parenteral nutrition in the community need regular assessment and monitoring. This should be carried out by home care specialists and by experienced hospital teams (initially at least weekly), using observations marked * in Table 1. In addition, they should be reviewed at a specialist hospital clinic every 3–6 months. Monitoring should be more frequent during the early months of home parenteral nutrition, or if there is a change in clinical condition, when the full range of tests in Tables 1 and 2 should be performed. Some of the clinical observations may be checked by patients or carers.

1.5.6 People having oral nutrition support and/or enteral tube feeding in the community should be monitored by healthcare professionals with the relevant skills and training in nutritional monitoring. This group of people should be monitored every 3–6 months or more frequently if there is any change in their clinical condition. A limited number of observations and tests from Table 1 should be performed. Some of the clinical observations may be checked by patients or carers. If clinical progress is satisfactory, laboratory tests are rarely needed.

1.5.7 If long-term nutrition support is needed patients and carers should be trained to recognise and respond to adverse changes in both their well-being and in the management of their nutritional delivery system.

Table 1 Protocol for nutritional, anthropometric and clinical monitoring of nutrition support

Parameter

Frequency

Rationale

Nutritional

Nutrient intake from oral, enteral or parenteral nutrition (including any change in conditions that are affecting food intake)

Daily initially, reducing to twice weekly when stable

To ensure that patient is receiving nutrients to meet requirements and that current method of feeding is still the most appropriate. To allow alteration of intake as indicated

Actual volume of feed delivered*

Daily initially, reducing to twice weekly when stable

To ensure that patient is receiving correct volume of feed. To allow troubleshooting

Fluid balance charts (enteral and parenteral)

Daily initially, reducing to twice weekly when stable

To ensure patient is not becoming over/under hydrated

Anthropometric

Weight*

Daily if concerns regarding fluid balance, otherwise weekly reducing to monthly

To assess ongoing nutritional status, determine whether nutritional goals are being achieved and take into account both body fat and muscle

BMI*

Start of feeding and then monthly

Mid-arm circumference*

Monthly, if weight cannot be obtained or is difficult to interpret

Triceps skinfold thickness

Monthly, if weight cannot be obtained or is difficult to interpret

GI function

Nausea/vomiting*

Daily initially, reducing to twice weekly

To ensure tolerance of feed

Diarrhoea*

Daily initially, reducing to twice weekly

To rule out any other causes of diarrhoea and then assess tolerance of feeds

Constipation*

Daily initially, reducing to twice weekly

To rule out other causes of constipation and then assess tolerance of feeds

Abdominal distension

As necessary

Assess tolerance of feed

Enteral tube – nasally inserted

Gastric tube position (pH less than or equal to 5.5 using pH paper – or noting position of markers on tube once initial position has been confirmed)

Before each feed begins

To ensure tube in correct position

Nasal erosion

Daily

To ensure tolerance of tube

Fixation (is it secure?)

Daily

To help prevent tube becoming dislodged

Is tube in working order (all pieces intact, tube not blocked/kinked)?

Daily

To ensure tube is in working order

Gastrostomy or jejunostomy

Stoma site

Daily

To ensure site not infected/red, no signs of gastric leakage

Tube position (length at external fixation)

Daily

To ensure tube has not migrated from/into stomach and external over granulation

Tube insertion and rotation (gastrostomy without jejunal extension only)

Weekly

Prevent internal overgranulation/prevention of buried bumper syndrome

Balloon water volume (balloon retained gastrostomies only)

Weekly

To prevent tube falling out

Jejunostomy tube position by noting position of external markers

Daily

Confirmation of position

Parenteral nutrition

Catheter entry site*

Daily

Signs of infection/inflammation

Skin over position of catheter tip (peripherally fed people)*

Daily

Signs of thrombophlebitis

Clinical condition

General condition*

Daily

To ensure that patient is tolerating feed and that feeding and route continue to be appropriate

Temperature/blood pressure

Daily initially, then as needed

Sign of infection/fluid balance

Drug therapy*

Daily initially, reducing to monthly when stable

Appropriate preparation of drug (to reduce incidence of tube blockage). To prevent/reduce drug nutrient interactions

Long-/short-term goals

Are goals being met?*

Daily initially, reducing to twice weekly and then progressively to 3–6 monthly, unless clinical condition changes

To ensure that feeding is appropriate to overall care of patient

Are goals still appropriate?*

Daily initially, reducing to twice weekly and then progressively to 3–6 monthly, unless clinical condition changes

To ensure that feeding is appropriate to overall care of patient

People at home having parenteral nutrition should be monitored using observations marked *.

Table 2 Protocol for laboratory monitoring of nutrition support

Parameter

Frequency

Rationale

Interpretation

Sodium, potassium, urea, creatinine

Baseline

Daily until stable

Then 1 or 2 times a week

Assessment of renal function, fluid status, and Na and K status

Interpret with knowledge of fluid balance and medication

Urinary sodium may be helpful in complex cases with gastrointestinal fluid loss

Glucose

Baseline

1 or 2 times a day (or more if needed) until stable

Then weekly

Glucose intolerance is common

Good glycaemic control is necessary

Magnesium, phosphate

Baseline

Daily if risk of refeeding syndrome

Three times a week until stable

Then weekly

Depletion is common and under recognised

Low concentrations indicate poor status

Liver function tests including International Normalised Ratio (INR)

Baseline

Twice weekly until stable

Then weekly

Abnormalities common during parenteral nutrition

Complex. May be due to sepsis, other disease or nutritional intake

Calcium, albumin

Baseline

Then weekly

Hypocalcaemia or hypercalcaemia may occur

Correct measured serum calcium concentration for albumin

Hypocalcaemia may be secondary to Mg deficiency

Low albumin reflects disease not protein status

C-reactive protein

Baseline

Then 2 or 3 times a week until stable

Assists interpretation of protein, trace element and vitamin results

To assess the presence of an acute phase reaction (APR). The trend of results is important

Zinc, copper

Baseline

Then every 2–4 weeks, depending on results

Deficiency common, especially when increased losses

People most at risk when anabolic

APR causes Zn decrease and Cu increase

Seleniuma

Baseline if risk of depletion

Further testing dependent on baseline

Se deficiency likely in severe illness and sepsis, or long-term nutrition support

APR causes Se decrease

Long-term status better assessed by glutathione peroxidase

Full blood count and MCV

Baseline

1 or 2 times a week until stable

Then weekly

Anaemia due to iron or folate deficiency is common

Effects of sepsis may be important

Iron, ferritin

Baseline

Then every 3–6 months

Iron deficiency common in long-term parenteral nutrition

Iron status difficult if APR (Fe decrease, ferritin increase)

Folate, B12

Baseline

Then every 2–4 weeks

Iron deficiency is common

Serum folate/B12 sufficient, with full blood count

Manganeseb

Every 3–6 months if on home parenteral nutrition

Excess provision to be avoided, more likely if liver disease

Red blood cell or whole blood better measure of excess than plasma

25-OH Vit Db

6 monthly if on long-term support

Low if housebound

Requires normal kidney function for effect

Bone densitometryb

On starting home parenteral nutrition

Then every 2 years

Metabolic bone disease diagnosis

Together with lab tests for metabolic bone disease

a These tests are needed primarily for people having parenteral nutrition in the community.

b These tests are rarely needed for people having enteral tube feeding (in hospital or in the community), unless there is cause for concern.

1.6 Oral nutrition support in hospital and the community

People with dysphagia

1.6.1 People who present with any obvious or less obvious indicators of dysphagia listed in Box should be referred to healthcare professionals with relevant skills and training in the diagnosis, assessment and management of swallowing disorders.

Box 2 Indicators of dysphagia

Obvious indicators of dysphagia

Less obvious indicators of dysphagia

Difficult, painful chewing or swallowing

Regurgitation of undigested food

Difficulty controlling food or liquid in the mouth

Drooling

Hoarse voice

Coughing or choking before, during or after swallowing

Globus sensation

Nasal regurgitation

Feeling of obstruction

Unintentional weight loss – for example, in people with dementia

Change in respiration pattern

Unexplained temperature spikes

Wet voice quality

Tongue fasciculation (may be indicative of motor neurone disease)

Xerostomia

Heartburn

Change in eating habits – for example, eating slowly or avoiding social occasions

Frequent throat clearing

Recurrent chest infections

Atypical chest pain

1.6.2 Healthcare professionals should recognise that people with acute and chronic neurological conditions and those who have undergone surgery or radiotherapy to the upper aero-digestive tract are at high risk of developing dysphagia.

1.6.3 When managing people with dysphagia, healthcare professionals with relevant skills and training in the diagnosis, assessment and management of swallowing disorders should consider:

  • the risks and benefits of modified oral nutrition support and/or enteral tube feeding

  • the factors listed in Box.

Box 3 Factors to be considered before modification of nutrition support and hydration in people with dysphagia

Recurrent chest infections

Mobility

Dependency on others for assistance to eat

Perceived palatability and appearance of food or drink

Level of alertness

Compromised physiology

Poor oral hygiene

Compromised medical status

Metabolic and nutritional requirements

Vulnerability (for example, immunocompromised)

Comorbidities

1.6.4 People with dysphagia should have a drug review to ascertain if the current drug formulation, route and timing of administration remains appropriate and is without contraindications for the feeding regimen or swallowing process.

1.6.5 Healthcare professionals with relevant skills and training in the diagnosis, assessment and management of swallowing disorders should regularly monitor and reassess people with dysphagia who are having modified food and liquid until they are stable.

Indications

1.6.6 Healthcare professionals should consider oral nutrition support to improve nutritional intake for people who can swallow safely and are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition as defined in 1.3.1 and 1.3.2, respectively.[11]

1.6.7 Healthcare professionals should ensure that the overall nutrient intake of oral nutrition support offered contains a balanced mixture of protein, energy, fibre, electrolytes, vitamins and minerals.

1.6.8 If there is concern about the adequacy of micronutrient intake, a complete oral multivitamin and mineral supplement providing the reference nutrient intake for all vitamins and trace elements should be considered by healthcare professionals with the relevant skills and training in nutrition support who are able to determine the nutritional adequacy of a patient's dietary intake.

1.6.9 Oral nutrition support should be stopped when the patient is established on adequate oral intake from normal food.

Surgical patients

1.6.10 Peri-operative oral nutrition support should be considered for surgical patients who can swallow safely and are malnourished as defined in 1.3.1.

1.6.11 Healthcare professionals should consider giving post-caesarean or gynaecological surgical patients who can swallow safely, some oral intake within 24 hours of surgery.

1.6.12 Healthcare professionals should consider giving post-abdominal surgery patients who can swallow safely, and in whom there are no specific concerns about gut function or integrity, some oral intake within 24 hours of surgery. The patient should be monitored carefully for any signs of nausea or vomiting.

1.7 Enteral tube feeding in hospital and the community

In this guideline, enteral tube feeding refers to the delivery of a nutritionally complete feed (as specified in section 1.4) via a tube into the stomach, duodenum or jejunum.

Indications

1.7.1 Healthcare professionals should consider enteral tube feeding in people who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition as defined in 1.3.1 and 1.3.2, respectively, and have:

  • inadequate or unsafe oral intake, and

  • a functional, accessible gastrointestinal tract.

1.7.2 Enteral tube feeding should not be given to people unless they meet the criteria in 1.7.1, or they are taking part in a clinical trial.

1.7.3 Enteral tube feeding should be stopped when the patient is established on adequate oral intake.

Surgical patients

1.7.4 Surgical patients who are: malnourished, as defined in 1.3.1, and meet the criteria in 1.7.1, and are due to undergo major abdominal procedures, should be considered for pre-operative enteral tube feeding.

1.7.5 General surgical patients should not have enteral tube feeding within 48 hours post-surgery unless they meet the criteria in 1.7.1.

Route of access

1.7.6 People in general medical, surgical and intensive care wards who meet the criteria in 1.7.1 should be fed via a tube into the stomach unless there is upper gastrointestinal dysfunction.

1.7.7 People who meet the criteria in 1.7.1, with upper gastrointestinal dysfunction (or an inaccessible upper gastrointestinal tract) should be considered for post-pyloric (duodenal or jejunal) feeding.

1.7.8 Gastrostomy feeding should be considered in people likely to need long-term (4 weeks or more) enteral tube feeding.

1.7.9 Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tubes which have been placed without apparent complications can be used for enteral tube feeding 4 hours after insertion.

People with dysphagia

1.7.10 In the acute setting, for example following stroke, people unable to swallow safely or take sufficient energy and nutrients orally should have an initial 2–4 week trial of nasogastric enteral tube feeding. Healthcare professionals with relevant skills and training in the diagnosis, assessment and management of swallowing disorders should assess the prognosis and options for future nutrition
support.

Mode of delivery

1.7.11 For people being fed into the stomach, bolus or continuous methods should be considered, taking into account patient preference, convenience and drug administration.

1.7.12 For people in intensive care, nasogastric tube feeding should usually be delivered continuously over 16–24 hours daily. If insulin administration is needed it is safe and more practical to administer feeding continuously over 24 hours.

Motility agents

1.7.13 For people in intensive care with delayed gastric emptying who are not tolerating enteral tube feeding, a motility agent should be considered, unless there is a pharmacological cause that can be rectified or suspicion of gastrointestinal obstruction.

1.7.14 People in other acute care settings who have delayed gastric emptying and are not tolerating enteral tube feeding should also be offered a motility agent unless there is a pharmacological cause that can be rectified or suspicion of gastrointestinal obstruction. 

1.7.15 If delayed gastric emptying is severely limiting feeding into the stomach, despite the use of motility agents, post-pyloric enteral tube feeding and/or parenteral nutrition should be considered.

Management of tubes

1.7.16 People requiring enteral tube feeding should have their tube inserted by healthcare professionals with the relevant skills and training.

1.7.17 The position of all nasogastric tubes should be confirmed after placement and before each use by aspiration and pH graded paper (with X-ray if necessary) as per the advice from the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA, 2011; further patient safety alerts for nasogastric tubes have also been issued in 2013 and 2016). Local protocols should address the clinical criteria that permit enteral tube feeding. These criteria include how to proceed when the ability to make repeat checks of the tube position is limited by the inability to aspirate the tube, or the checking of pH is invalid because of gastric acid suppression.

1.7.18 The initial placement of post-pyloric tubes should be confirmed with an abdominal X-ray (unless placed radiologically). Agreed protocols setting out the necessary clinical checks need to be in place before this procedure is carried out.

1.8 Parenteral nutrition in hospital and the community

Indications

1.8.1 Healthcare professionals should consider parenteral nutrition in people who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition as defined in 1.3.1 and 1.3.2, respectively, and meet either of the following criteria:

  • inadequate or unsafe oral and/or enteral nutritional intake

  • a non-functional, inaccessible or perforated (leaking) gastrointestinal tract.

Prescription

1.8.2 Parenteral nutrition should be introduced progressively and closely monitored, usually starting at no more than 50% of estimated needs for the first 24–48 hours. Parenteral nutrition can be withdrawn once adequate oral or enteral nutrition is tolerated and nutritional status is stable. Withdrawal should be planned and stepwise with a daily review of the patient's progress.

1.8.3 Patients who need parenteral nutrition should have their nutritional requirements determined by healthcare professionals with the relevant skills and training in the prescription of nutrition support. Before using most parenteral nutrition products, micronutrients and trace elements should be added and additional electrolytes and other nutrients may also be needed. Additions should be made under appropriate pharmaceutically controlled environmental conditions before administration.

1.8.4 Parenteral nutrition should be stopped when the patient is established on adequate oral and/or enteral support. There is no minimum length of time for the duration of parenteral nutrition.

Surgical patients

1.8.5 Healthcare professionals should consider supplementary peri‑operative parenteral nutrition in malnourished surgical patients who meet the criteria in 1.8.1.

1.8.6 Peri-operative supplementary parenteral nutrition should not be given to surgical patients unless they meet the criteria set out in 1.8.1.

1.8.7 If intestinal tolerance persistently limits enteral tube feeding in surgical or critical care patients, parenteral nutrition should be used to supplement or replace enteral tube feeding.

Route of access

1.8.8 In hospital, parenteral nutrition can be given via a dedicated peripherally inserted central catheter as an alternative to a dedicated centrally placed central venous catheter. A free dedicated lumen in a multi-lumen centrally placed catheter may also be used.

1.8.9 Administration of parenteral nutrition via a peripheral venous catheter should be considered for patients who are likely to need short-term parenteral nutrition (less than 14 days) who have no need for central access for other reasons. Care should be taken in catheter choice, and in attention to pH, tonicity and long-term compatibility of the parenteral nutrition formulations in order to avoid administration or stability problems.

1.8.10 Tunnelling subclavian lines is recommended for long-term use (more than 30 days).

1.8.11 Catheters do not have to be tunnelled for short-term use (less than 30 days).

Mode of delivery

1.8.12 Continuous administration of parenteral nutrition should be offered as the preferred method of infusion in severely ill people who require parenteral nutrition.

1.8.13 Cyclical delivery of parenteral nutrition should be considered when using peripheral venous cannulae with planned routine catheter change.

1.8.14 A gradual change from continuous to cyclical delivery should be considered in patients requiring parenteral nutrition for more than 2 weeks.

Management of catheters

1.8.15 Only healthcare professionals competent in catheter placement should be responsible for the placement of catheters and they should be aware of the importance of monitoring and managing these safely.[12]

1.9 Supporting patients in the community

1.9.1 Healthcare professionals should ensure that patients having enteral or parenteral nutrition in the community and their carers:

  • are kept fully informed and have access to appropriate sources of information in formats, languages and ways that are suited to an individual's requirements. Consideration should be given to cognition, gender, physical needs, culture and stage of life of the individual

  • have the opportunity to discuss diagnosis, treatment options and relevant physical, psychological and social issues

  • are given contact details for relevant support groups, charities and voluntary organisations.

Enteral tube feeding

1.9.2 All people in the community having enteral tube feeding should be supported by a coordinated multidisciplinary team, which includes dietitians, district, care home or homecare company nurses, GPs, community pharmacists and other allied healthcare professionals (for example, speech and language therapists) as appropriate. Close liaison between the multidisciplinary team and patients and carers regarding diagnoses, prescription, arrangements and potential problems is essential.

1.9.3 Patients in the community having enteral tube feeding and their carers should receive an individualised care plan which includes overall aims and a monitoring plan.

1.9.4 Patients in the community having enteral tube feeding and their carers, should receive training and information from members of the multidisciplinary team on:

  • the management of the tubes, delivery systems and the regimen, outlining all procedures related to setting up feeds, using feed pumps, the likely risks and methods for troubleshooting common problems and be provided with an instruction manual (and visual aids if appropriate)

  • both routine and emergency telephone numbers to contact a healthcare professional who understands the needs and potential problems of people on home enteral tube feeding

  • the delivery of equipment, ancillaries and feed with appropriate contact details for any homecare company involved.

Parenteral nutrition

1.9.5 All people in the community having parenteral nutrition should be supported by a co-ordinated multidisciplinary team, which includes input from specialist nutrition nurses, dietitians, GPs, pharmacists and district and/or homecare company nurses. Close liaison between the multidisciplinary team and patients and carers regarding diagnoses, prescription, arrangements and potential problems is essential.

1.9.6 People in the community having parenteral nutrition and their carers should receive an individualised care plan which includes overall aims and a monitoring plan.

1.9.7 People in the community having parenteral nutrition and their carers should receive training and information from members of the multidisciplinary team on:

  • the management of the delivery systems and the regimen, outlining all procedures related to setting up feeds, using feed pumps, the likely risks and methods for troubleshooting common problems and be provided with an instruction manual (and visual aids if appropriate)

  • routine and emergency telephone numbers to contact a healthcare professional with the relevant competencies (specialist nutrition nurse, pharmacist)

  • the arrangements for the delivery of equipment, ancillaries and feed with appropriate contact details for any homecare company involved.

More information

You can also see this guideline in the NICE pathways on nutrition support in adults and stroke.

To find out what NICE has said on topics related to this guideline, see our web page on endocrinal, nutritional and metabolic conditions: general and other.

See also the guideline committee's discussion and the evidence reviews (in the full guideline), and information about how the guideline was developed, including details of the committee.



[2] The composition of this team may differ according to setting and local arrangements.

[3] Clinical concern includes, for example, unintentional weight loss, fragile skin, poor wound healing, apathy, wasted muscles, poor appetite, altered taste sensation, impaired swallowing, altered bowel habit, loose fitting clothes or prolonged intercurrent illness.

[4] BMI is weight (kg)/height (m2) (weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared).

[7] Total intake includes intake from any food, oral fluid, oral nutritional supplements, enteral and/or parenteral nutrition support and intravenous fluid.

[8] The term 'micronutrient' is used throughout to include all essential vitamins and trace elements.

[9] This level may need to be lower in people who are overweight, BMI >25.

[10] When using parenteral nutrition it is often necessary to adjust total energy values listed on the manufacturer's information which may not include protein energy values.

[11] Oral nutrition support includes any of the following methods to improve nutritional intake: fortified food with protein, carbohydrate and/or fat, plus minerals and vitamins; snacks; oral nutritional supplements; altered meal patterns; the provision of dietary advice.