Shadow Health Minister Stephen O'Brien highlights a new Government report that reveals that almost 50,000 people a year could be dying with malnutrition in NHS hospitals in England.
This is 200 times as many cases per year than the Government had previously admitted.
"It is horrific that so many patients are dying with malnutrition", O’Brien said. "We have raised this issue many times but Labour Ministers have dragged their feet and are doing very little about it."
The report was originally handed to the Department of Health in August last year but Ministers have delayed its publication until now.
The report is highly critical of the Government and says that:
- There are many more deaths from malnutrition than previously thought. The report says that official statistics, which show that 239 people in English hospitals died from malnutrition ‘can be very misleading. They represent less than 0.5 per cent of the number who died in hospital with malnutrition.’ This would mean than 47,800 people actually died in hospital with malnutrition in 2007.
- The Government is not actively addressing the problem of malnutrition. The report says that: ‘The Department has not fully thought through its policy on malnutrition and that it is not being actively addressed, except through short-term and discrete initiatives’.
- In its response to the report, the Government makes clear that it will abolish the advisory board of experts that wrote the report.
O'Brien criticised the Government for sitting on "this devastating report" for so long. "It is tragic to think that many more lives might have been saved if they hadn’t deliberately delayed publishing it because of the embarrassment it causes them".
"The Government urgently needs to take this report and its recommendations seriously. And it needs to free doctors and nurses from a culture of box-ticking and bureaucracy so that every patient can get the care they need in hospital."