The Francis Report sadly highlights all too well that nutrition and hydration is still not being recognised as an essential part of an individual’s recovery from illness in hospital.
Despite a plethora of national guidance and recommendations of how important good nutritional care is and recommendations of how to assist patients to eat in hospital it is clear that the message is not always getting through to those providing care on the wards. Poor nutritional care has a major impact upon patient harm – as has been clearly demonstrated in this report. Nutrition is still seen in many organisations as part of hotel services and due to health and safety or infection control issues it is often difficult for nursing staff to get a piece of toast or a yoghurt for a patient.
Nutrition is everyone’s responsibility as the Francis report has highlighted. Families and carers know their loved ones best and should be listened to and where appropriate be welcomed into working with nursing staff to ensure the patient receives nutrition that appropriate to their needs. This should not replace the care that nurses provide – but enhance it.
Nutrition nurse specialists are paramount in the provision of good nutritional care for patients and yet despite the recommendations made by NICE in 2006, many organisations still do not have nutrition nurses to lead, advise and provide guidance for nurses and unregistered nursing staff to provide good nutritional care to their patients.
The NNNG maintains that good nutrition needs nurses and it is easy to blame nurses for not feeding patients. However as the Francis report states, other health care professionals need to recognise the importance of nutrition and allow patients to eat and drink uninterrupted. All health care professionals are capable of recognising a tray full of food that has not been eaten or a cup of tea that has not been drunk and reporting this back to the nurse in charge of that patient.
It is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure good nutritional care is provided across all organisations. It is the time to call a halt to the development of more guidance. Steps must be taken to embed current guidance in practice to guarantee that patients in hospital receive sufficient food and drink. Good nutritional care must be taken seriously across all organisations and not just seen as another tick box exercise. There is no excuse.
For further details of the report click here