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Acute patients 'suffering malnutrition'

As many as one in ten of the people admitted to hospitals as acute patients are suffering from malnutrition - but in many cases doctors and nurses do not spot the symptoms, a charity representing nutrition experts said yesterday.

All patients should be screened routinely to spot those suffering from malnutrition as well as the complaints or diseases which led to them going to hospital initially, the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (Bapen) said.

As many as 1,400 of the 14,000 people who go into hospital as acute admissions each day would be seriously malnourished for reasons including loss of appetite and mobility, difficulty in chewing or swallowing, and digestive disorders.

Malnourished patients recovered more slowly and stay longer in hospital, the BAPEN report, published in the specialist journal Clinical Nutrition, said.

It said that weighing and questioning patients was the best way of identifying the signs of malnourishment. But 50 per cent of doctors and nurses did not weigh patients on admission and 91 per cent failed to take a note of height, while nearly 40 per cent of admissions were not asked about their eating habits and dieting.