Tackling Malnutrition: the ‘Food First’ Way

The Food First team, finalists of the NICE Shared Learning Awards, tell us about their approach to improving nutritional care in care homes

Food First team, Nutrition and Dietetic Service, Cambridgeshire Community Services, NHS Trust

Malnutrition occurs when the food a person consumes does not contain the amount of nutrients they need. It can be a life threatening condition.

One in three care home residents are at risk of malnutrition. It is therefore vital that meal times are optimised in care home, aiming to meet everyone’s nutritional needs and improve their wellbeing.

The Food First initiative uses NICE nutrition support guidance to help care homes provide the best possible nutritional care for their residents.

We train care home staff at all levels to improve their identification and management of malnutrition. Their new skills are then audited and if they’re successful they receive a certificate.

Overall the Food First team promotes the idea that malnutrition is everyone’s responsibility. It can be great fun developing recipes with the help of residents and staff.

We develop valuable relationships with the care homes we work with and are often considered an extension of their team. These relationships are key as they help us to identify barriers to providing a good standard of nutritional food.

Research has shown that malnutrition increases hospital admissions, risk of falls, GP visits and dependence on others. It is estimated to cost £19.6 billion a year in England.

So far we have helped more than 120 care homes to improve the food they provide to more than 5500 residents. Basing our programme on NICE guidance ensures care home managers and social care professionals trust our advice.

We are confident that our work will continue to be a supportive model for care homes across Luton, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Valleys which can easily be replicated on a wider scale.  

Food First team, Nutrition and Dietetic Service, Dunstable Health Centre, Cambridgeshire Community Services, NHS Trust
Tags: malnutrition, care homes, nutrition and dietetic service, NHS trust, shared learning awards

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