Tomorrow's doctors must become more competent in nutritional advice, delegates at the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) national conference were told last week.
Dr Sumantra Ray, a clinical research and teaching fellow at the University of Dundee, said catering and nutritional intake needed to be considered as a clinical discipline, with doctors taking the lead on advising patients.
He said: "We have a 40% prevalence of patient malnutrition in the UK, higher than the European Union average of 30%. This leads to longer recovery times and higher morbidity because no one is taking responsibility for feeding in hospitals."
Ray criticised the fact that only basic nutrition was currently taught to trainee doctors, with anything further remaining optional. This, he warned, had led to an institutional lack of nutritional competency and interest.
"Feeding is a chain of events as strong as its weakest link. Normal food has always been and will continue to be the cheapest form of medicine and its therapeutic role within the healing process should never be underestimated," Ray added.
By Chris Druce
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