Malnutrition cases in English hospitals almost double in five years

Admissions to hospitals have soared as poorer families struggle to afford food

The shocking impact of recession and austerity on England’s poorest people has come to light again in figures showing the number of malnutrition cases treated at NHS hospitals has nearly doubled since the economic downturn.

Primary and secondary diagnoses of malnutrition – caused by lack of food or very poor diet – rose from 3,161 in 2008/09 to 5,499 last year, according to figures released by the health minister Norman Lamb.

While the data does not include information on the circumstances of each diagnosis, the rise coincides with a dramatic increase in the cost of living, and a spike in demand for charity food hand-outs.

The figures, broken down by region, reveal the heaviest burden of hunger is being felt in rural areas. Hospitals in Somerset saw the most cases, with 215 diagnoses, followed by Cornwall and Scilly Isles.

Hospital statistics represent the number of admission episodes, not the number of patients, so the figures may represent some repeat visits. But Jim Cunningham, Labour MP for Coventry South, who acquired the figures in a written answer to a parliamentary question last week, said they were a “map of how the economic situation of the past  five years has affected people”.

“We have seen high-energy prices, the bedroom tax and a growth in organisations helping people who can’t afford food – and now this,” he said. “With diminishing resources for the NHS, they could do without a situation like this.”

In another indication of food poverty’s growing impact, figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that diagnoses of rickets – a disease of poverty associated with vitamin D deficiency – have also risen significantly, from 561 in 2008/09 to 702 in the past year.

Social support charities have made repeated warnings that a combination of economic stagnation and government austerity measures, threatened to plunge some of the country’s poorest into food poverty.

Jamie Reed MP, Labour’s shadow Health minister, said the figures should “shock ministers out of their complacency. Older people will be hit hardest and a growing number are already arriving at hospital suffering from malnutrition – they deserve better,” he said.

The number of visits to food banks has risen to around half a million a year, according to Oxfam. The largest food bank operator, the Trussell Trust, fed only 26,000 people in 2008 – that figure that now stands at more than 350,000. Adrian Curtis, its UK director, said: “It’s not surprising that rates of malnutrition have also increased. We see people coming to foodbanks who’ve gone without food for days.”

A DoH spokesman said last night: “The Government has taken action to help families, cutting income tax for 25 million people and taking 2.7 million out of income tax altogether – saving a typical taxpayer over £700 a year, freezing council tax for five years and freezing fuel duty. 

“Our advice for a healthy diet is to eat the right number of calories for how active you are and to eat a wide range of foods to ensure that you’re getting a balanced diet and that your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs.”

Case study: Chris, 10, from London

The welfare charity Kids Company has shared stories of some of London’s hungry. Chris, 10, showed signs of malnourishment with pale skin and dark rings under his eyes. He was so hungry he chipped bits of brick off the wall and ate them. His alcoholic father left his mother two years ago. The only food the children were given was cheap and processed. Key workers intervened by picking him up from school every day and eating a healthy supper with him in one of Kids Company’s centres.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
techResearchers recover 100s of nude photos from second-hand smartphones
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Digital Marketing,London

    To £58k Contract 12 months: Charter Selection: Major household name charity se...

    Network Support Engineer / Junior Test Analyst

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: A market leading, in...

    Key Account Manager, Medical

    £35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

    Key Account Manager, Medical

    £35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice