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Money Talks… The Financial Case for Addressing Malnutrition in the UK
The detrimental effects of malnutrition on health and quality of life are increasingly recognised in the scientific literature, and include increased risk of infection, delayed wound healing, impaired heart and lung function, decreased muscle strength and depression.
Malnutrition is also a huge financial burden. However, the financial case for preventing malnutrition is not often considered and yet is likely to provide, in the current economic climate, another compelling reason to address this issue.
Malnutrition can cost up to £13 billion
Studies which have examined the financial implication of malnutrition in the UK report that costs range from £5 billion for direct health care costs to £13 billion for both direct and associated health and social care expenditure. This expenditure would include, for example, the increased cost of prescriptions and general medical, nursing, residential and home care services associated with malnutrition. Of the reported £13 billion, the proportion attributed to adult residential care was £1.25 billion, adult nursing care £0.66 billion and adult home care £0.62 billion.
Cost of Malnutrition in the community
A study looking at malnutrition in the community, specifically through General Practices, found that malnourished patients were more than twice as likely to see their GP, had 3 times the number of hospital admissions and stayed in hospital 3 days longer. The estimated additional cost over a year was £1449 per person.
Cost of Malnutrition in care homes
Malnutrition in relation to care homes has also been linked to increased hospitalisation and long term ill health. Recent research in the Netherlands has looked at the costs associated with screening and monitoring in nursing care homes, and the cost effectiveness of early intervention and treatment. Such studies have found that the cost of managing patients at risk of malnutrition (looking at the costs for screening, weight measurement, monitoring and meals) is approximately half that of treating those that are malnourished. This suggests that preventing patients from becoming malnourished through early intervention, screening and monitoring, might be very cost effective compared to treating malnutrition once it’s happened. Indeed NICE estimated that investing in screening and early intervention could result in a net saving of £71,800 per 100,000 of the population.
Prevention of malnutrition is cost effective
Regular screening and monitoring of nutritional status for all people in care homes is important. Highlighting costs may be a key motivator to ensure effective actions are in place to prevent malnutrition in care homes at the earliest time.