The care home sector desperately needs a "Jamie Oliver figure" to force the Government to drive up nutritional standards in residential care, according to Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow.
Widespread dementia and an ageing population are fuelling an expansion in residential care and yet the area of nutrition in the care home sector is woefully ignored by the Government, he said.
"There's no escaping the fact that Jamie Oliver did shift Government thinking and policy on the feeding of children in schools," he told the National Association of Care Catering (NACC) Conference in Leicestershire last week. "But school meals represent one meal out of three for 33 weeks of the year for children. In care homes we're looking at three meals a day for the rest of people's lives."
Burstow said that five out of 10 care home residents are at risk of malnutrition - a population of about 44,000 people - and yet, when referring to nutrition, the political focus is only on obesity.
He said the Government should insist that care caterers are trained in nutrition. "There is an NVQ but there is no mandatory requirement, and that has to be filled urgently," Burstow said. "There are more people over 65 across the UK than under 16 - that's a monumental shift in demographics - and the over-85s is the fastest-growing part of the population and yet it is disproportionately represented. It's going to explode in the future."
Burstow added that it was time the Government listened and focused on the right mix of policy, best practice and best care for the elderly. "It's a matter of life or death," he warned.
For further news from the NACC Conference see Inside Contract Catering in our 19 October issue.
By Amanda Afiya
E-mail your comments to Amanda Afiya](mailto:email@example.com?subject=Care home sector 'needs a Jamie') here.