Responding to a report on malnutrition in older people, published today by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Significant funding pressures on councils are already threatening services that elderly people and their friends and families rely on, particularly meals on wheels and luncheon clubs.
“The fact that the number of older people diagnosed with malnutrition after being admitted to hospital has more than trebled in a decade is deeply concerning, as is the estimated £11.9 billion cost to our health and social care services of this malnutrition among the older population – a cost forecast to rise further in forthcoming years.
“Councils and providers are doing all they can to provide good care and support, including nutritious meals, however any proposed duty on providers to provide at least one hot meal every day will lead to increased costs and exacerbate significant current pressures on providers. Our social care system already needs an estimated £1.3 billion immediately, and in future years, and faces a £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020.
“Increased demand on social care services, underfunding, and the retention and recruitment of staff, have been linked to short care visits, which may not allow care workers enough time to help prepare a hot, nutritious meal.
“Loneliness, which is placing an increasing burden on health and social care, is also a problem which may be a factor in malnutrition in older people. Councils have programmes and initiatives in place to tackle loneliness and work closely with voluntary organisations and faith groups to support isolated people in the community.
“Urgent extra funding for social care – key to effective prevention work - will help protect older people from malnutrition and save the NHS money.
“Government needs to address this in the forthcoming final Local Government Finance Settlement before the social care green paper, which is months away and is likely to take a long time for its promised reforms to be implemented.”