Extra meal can save elderly patients
HAVING one more meal a day could halve an elderly patient’s risk of dying in hospital, an NHS pilot scheme has shown.
Nutritional advisers at five trusts in England and one in Scotland made a fourth meal for hip fracture patients and sat with them while they ate.
Mortality among the patients fell from 11 to 5.5 per cent and the average length of stay in hospital dropped from 25 to 20 days.
About 4,000 elderly people die each year within a month of being admitted for a hip fracture. Experts said older patients often fail to eat enough nutrients while bedbound. Mr Dominic Inman, chief orthopaedic surgeon for the National Hip Fracture Database who helped set up the scheme, said: “The focus of our look at nutrition was to try to improve the help patients would get with eating both main meals but also having snacks in between to try to build up their calorific intake during their hospital stay.
“At that point it’s all about getting calories into the patient. If you look upon food as a very, very cheap drug, that’s extremely powerful.” Visiting family and friends were also encouraged to bring snacks for patients.
Doctors said the extra calories, plus a morale boost from having company at mealtimes, made a huge difference to death rates.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which pioneered the scheme in 2016, said it could save about £1,437 a patient a year.
Professor Mike Reed, a consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon at the trust, said: “A hip is a very bad break to have. Many patients are already frail and elderly, then the trauma of the fall and the demands can be very dangerous. It’s clear that the extra food is helping these patients dramatically.”
Prof Reed said the trust is working with The Health Foundation charity to get the scheme rolled out across the country.
He added: “We’ve spent around £20,000 a year per hospital. It’s a very cheap intervention. In Northumberland we have rolled this out across the vast majority of wards. Focusing on nutrition could make a difference to all sorts of patients, not just hip patients.”