Leeds committed to tackling malnutrition in older people

Health and social care professionals plus representatives from the voluntary sector in Leeds attended an awareness raising event today (17 October), aimed at reinforcing the link between the wellbeing of older people and good nutrition and hydration.

The second Thirst for Nutrition conference delivered key messages to frontline staff to help them better understand the different nutritional needs of older people, and the processes that are in place to support these needs in health, social care and community settings.

At the first Thirst for Nutrition conference last year, organisations were invited to sign up to the Leeds Food Consensus. This is a pledge that commits organisations to do everything that they can to meet the nutritional needs of older people in their care, and protect their health and wellbeing as well as ensuring that they are able to maintain their independence.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, executive board member for health and wellbeing re-confirmed Leeds City Council’s commitment to the Leeds Food Consensus by re-signing the pledge at the event, which she opened.  She said:

“I was shocked to learn that at any one time in Leeds there are around 27,500 people with malnutrition. This is a statistic that often gets overlooked because of the focus on tackling the nation’s obesity problem.

“I am absolutely committed to working with the NHS and our other partners across the city to ensure that older people are kept nutritionally well. This means that we will identify and take positive steps to help people in Leeds who are vulnerable and at risk of becoming malnourished.

“This conference will help people that work with and take care of older people to understand their needs, and also demonstrates our commitment with the NHS and other partners to working together on this important issue.”

Philomena Corrigan, director of delivery and service transformation for NHS Airedale, Bradford and Leeds commented:

“When people talk about dehydration and malnutrition there is a widely held view that these conditions only affect people living in less developed countries.

“However this is not the case and every year people in Leeds, especially older people, are admitted to hospital as a result of dehydration and malnutrition. That is why we are working with Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust and Leeds City Council in developing resources and raising awareness of this issue.

“We hope that this will mean people in our city will receive appropriate care and support so that they can avoid falling ill through something which is preventable.”

The conference helped health and social care staff to:

• understand the different nutritional needs of older people in Leeds;

• understand consistent key nutritional messages for older people;

• be aware of the processes in place to support older people with nutritional needs within health, social and community settings;

• be aware of appropriate signposting opportunities, if there are concerns about the nutritional needs of an older person; and

• identify potential training opportunities for staff and their teams.

Case study

An older person was referred by her GP for dietetic intervention in her own home due to weight loss following surgery.

The assessment found that she had been finding it difficult to eat following bowel surgery several months earlier. She was unsure what she could and couldn’t eat and this meant her diet was limited and not meeting her requirements. She was also not drinking enough.

She had ongoing problems with her dentures and needed regular dental treatments but struggled to pay for the taxi trips. Going outside was difficult as she had lost her confidence and was afraid of falling. She felt lonely and socially isolated which was causing anxiety.

The dietitian advised the lady about balanced meals, provided her with meal and snack ideas and ways to meet nutritional and fluid requirements. She also advised her about iron deficiency anaemia.

The dietitian used the Infostore website to find out about neighbourhood network schemes to help reduce isolation. The lady was put in contact with a befriending scheme, which resulted in regular visits for ‘a chat over a coffee’, and social events including parties and lunch time outings. They also provided lifts to the dentist and back which reduced anxiety and helped her financial situation (and meant she had more money to spend on food!).

Dietetic intervention plus support from the voluntary sector resulted in improving the lady’s general wellbeing and helped her to regain the weight she had lost.

She said: “Thank you so much for putting me in touch with my local neighbourhood network scheme. I feel much more confident and have a social life again.”


Additional info

The Thirst for Nutrition – Next Steps conference took place on Wednesday 17 October 2012 at Shine, Harehills Road, Leeds, LS8 5HS.

For media enquiries, please contact;

Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1578

Email: claire.macklam@leeds.gov.uk