The Government is launching a new action plan designed to address malnutrition among the elderly, which costs the UK an estimated £7.3b a year.
Caterer has learnt that the action plan, although not signed off yet, is expected to be launched during national Meals on Wheels Week, which runs from 1 to 7 October. It follows the publication of figures estimating that as many as 60,000 of the 441,067 adults in care are malnourished.
The plan, which is being led by the Department of Health, marks an important milestone: it is the first time all stakeholders within the sector have come together. Partners include the National Care Forum and the English Community Care Association.
The initiative will aim to raise awareness of nutrition and good health, streamline existing guidance, introduce more nutritional screening in care homes and improve staff training and care home inspection.
It is expected to include a timetable and there may also be limited additional funding available for specific projects.
The Government is also expected to set up a Dignity in Meal Times governance group, which will meet the minister quarterly.
Details of the plan emerged at the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) national conference in Birmingham.
In a prerecorded video, Ivan Lewis, parliamentary under secretary of state for care services, said the Government remained committed to placing dignity and respect for care-home residents at the forefront of its reforms ahead of the launch of the action plan. "The stakes are high and malnutrition needs to be seen as important," he said.
Sue Ullmann, the newly elected chair of the NACC, welcomed the commitment.
"We all want to promote and achieve best practice and through the NACC working collectively with other professionals we will continue to improve the quality of nutrition for those in care homes," she said.
By Chris Druce