The Patients Association has launched a new checklist to help patients and staff working in health and social care identify the potential risk of undernutrition in adults.

The Patients Association Nutrition Checklist aims to address the rising problems of undernutrition in older people, and could potentially improve the day-to-day lives and experiences of thousands of over-65s across the country.  

It is estimated that over 1.1 million people over 65 living in their own homes in the UK are currently undernourished, underweight or are not receiving appropriate nutrition to support and maintain their health and wellbeing. This poses a significant health risk for patients, with consequences from malnutrition including impaired recovery from illness and surgery, reduced muscle strength, more frequent falls and poorer clinical outcomes.

Developed by the Patients Association in collaboration with several health, social care and voluntary sector providers, the checklist is a simple tool that helps healthcare staff and patients identify the potential risk of undernutrition, and offers signposting to information and sources of help to those likely to be at risk.  

It has been rigorously tested and refined over a period of two years, and has received positive feedback from patients and staff working in the health and social care sector.  Although it can be used by anyone, the new checklist is primarily intended for those aged over 65 and living in the community.

During the pilots, more than 400 people used the Patients Association Nutrition Checklist, with nearly 120 people identified as being at risk of undernutrition. Staff who took part in the pilots believe that these people were identified and received information and guidance that they would not have otherwise received. All the pilot partners plan to continue using the Patients Association Nutrition Checklist as they found it easy to use within existing work plans and witnessed the benefits for the people they support.

As a result of these pilots, the content of the Patients Association Nutrition Checklist was refined and two versions developed, one for use by patients and their families, and the other for health, social care and volunteers supporting them. Individuals can use the checklist to identify their own risk of undernutrition, or the risk of undernutrition in someone they care for, and if they are at risk can follow the advice and guidance on what to do next.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said:

“The Patients Association Nutrition Checklist can play an important role in the drive to help identify undernutrition among older people and provide information and advice to improve weight gain. If malnutrition can be prevented or identified and treated at an early stage, it could reduce dependency on others and admissions to hospital and other care settings.

“The checklist is an effective tool that complements existing malnutrition screening resources. It has been praised by patients who find it easy to use and helpful, and by NHS staff for its practicality and simplicity. What we’d now like to see is the extensive take-up of this checklist in primary care and community settings to help address the problem of undernutrition, and to improve patients’ lives.”

Alison Smith, Lead Dietetic Prescribing Advisor at NHS Buckinghamshire CCG at the time of the pilot, and Chair of the British Dietetic Association Older People Specialist Group, said: “The nutrition checklist is a quick and simple tool that patients or staff can use to see if they need help with their eating. As well as identifying undernutrition, it also provides practical and straightforward advice for patients and carers, and helps health care professionals identify which patients require an in-depth discussion about their weight, eating and drinking.

“Poor nutrition has a significant impact on an individual’s health so identifying patients who need support in a timely manner is absolutely key – there is a real need for the nutrition checklist in the community.”

The Patients Association has raised concerns about malnutrition in the UK for many years. In 2015, we published a paper which identified the need to raise awareness of malnutrition, both with professionals and with patients and relatives by using a nutrition checklist. In 2017 we published a report outlining the issue of undernutrition among children in Britain today.

Watch a video about the new checklist

An animated video about the Patients Association Nutrition Checklist was developed for use in GP surgeries. The film was developed to explain the possibility of being undernourished or underweight, to introduce the Patients Association Nutrition Checklist and to give information about what actions to take.

DOWNLOAD

More information on the project can be found here.

Full report: download our overview report on the nutrition checklist here.

Patient version: to complete the Patients Association Nutrition Checklist yourself, or for a family member or friend, click here.

Staff version: if you work in health or social care, please read our guide on using the checklist here. The checklist for staff is available in two versions: section A and section B:

You can also read our report following the GP pilots here.

Please note: We are keen to hear from patients and health care professionals who are using our checklist, and would like to hear your feedback about the impact it has had on your nutrition, or the patients you are caring for. Please keep us posted with feedback by emailing [email protected]