The National Association of Care Catering (NACC) has announced the launch of its 10 Key Characteristics for Nutritional Care initiative, aimed at raising the standard of care catering for the elderly throughout England.
The new plan, launched at the NACC's national conference held in Blackpool (15-17 September), sets out the criteria that should be used as a standard measure of care for everyone working in the sector. The NACC is calling on the coalition government to adopt the characteristics as a measure in all social care settings, including hospitals, leading to the development of a nutrition standard for older people throughout the care catering sector.
NACC chairman Derek Johnson said: "The Government must play its part helping us to implement this with service providers up and down the country. Many older people rely on catering services from both local authorities and private companies to provide not only food, but also to help them remain independent in their own homes."
In addition to the wellbeing and health benefits to the elderly, the NACC outlined the strong economic argument for supporting older people to remain independent in their own homes. It cited evidence that suggests malnutrition among older people can lead to increased hospital stay, increased readmission rates and increased transfer and admission to care homes.
Rick Wilson, dietetic manager at King's College Hospital, London, said that good nutritional care was an investment in independence.
"Well-nourished individuals are more capable of looking after themselves both physically and mentally. Poor nutrition or hydration leads to poor health and a greater need for care," he added.
"As our population ages and we face the challenges raised by the current public finance situation, it has never been more important to keep older people fit and well, and at the cheap end of care."
The focus of the characteristics includes screening for malnourishment, developing a personal care support plan, and arming staff with the knowledge to ensure nutritional and fluid care services are met, as well as guidance on the delivery of food and beverage services and ensuring an environment in which people will enjoy their meals.
By Janie Stamford
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