Northern Ireland

Trust sorry for elderly 'leaving hospital malnourished'

The Belfast Trust director of nursing has apologised after claims some older people leave hospital malnourished.

Age Northern Ireland said elderly patients were being left hungry because they were unable to eat the food left on their hospital tray.

The charity said patients depended on families to both provide the food and feed it to them.

Director of Nursing Brenda Creaney said nurses recognised that good nutrition was as important as medication.

She added: "Food nutrition is one of the most important parts of the care we as nurses give.

"We do not always get it right but we do strive to get it right."

Age Northern Ireland said relatives were concerned patients were malnourished because food was not being pureed or cut up.

Duane Farrell from the charity said ensuring patients are properly looked after in hospital is more important than ever in the current economic climate.

Standards

"Under these conditions older people are going to spend longer in hospital, they're at risk of getting more infections and are going to need more medicine, so the economic reasons are argument enough," Mr Farrell said.

"We believe that hospital trusts need to be at the forefront of this, directors of nursing within those trusts need to be compiling information about how standards are being implemented and coming up with action plans."

Leandre Munroe, from Belfast, said her mother was sometimes unable to even reach her food tray.

"They can't bend over if they've just had surgery so the tray was just too far away.

"If it was closer, even then she couldn't cut it so you had to try and spoon feed, just to drink things she would need a straw," Ms Munroe added.

"Unless you were there to feed the person you were caring for, there wasn't enough staff to do that."

In a statement, the Department of Health said nutritional standards for patient food in hospitals was launched in 2007.

Since then trusts had adopted a screening tool to identify those patients who are at most risk, the department said.

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