Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Britain is a country and no country for more and more hungry old men and women

The veteran MP, Frank Field, set up the 'All Party Parliamentary Group on 'Hunger and Food Poverty' with Laura Sandys in 2013, in order to investigate the root causes behind hunger, food poverty and the huge increase in demand for food banks across Britain. The group renamed itself the 'APPG on Hunger' in 2015.

Last month it delivered a Report : 'Hidden hunger and malnutrition in the elderly', which began with :

'Malnutrition arises when a person’s body does not gain the nutrients it needs to function properly. Older people are particularly at risk of becoming malnourished, due to a range of unique medical, physical, and social reasons.'

The Report said that a million old people in Britain are at risk of 'withering away in their own homes' as a result of malnutrition caused by social isolation and cuts to public services. It concluded that isolation, which can be caused by either bereavement, illness, immobility or confinement, perhaps through the loss of a driving licence, are the main causes of a largely 'hidden' problem of elderly hunger in Britain.

It stated that : 'Loneliness accompanied by a bowl of cereal and two sandwiches, every day, every week, should be unacceptable in modern Britain. But within the current legislative framework, it is almost inevitable.'

In answer to the question : Why are so many old men and women in Britain in 2018 undernourished ?

The Report said that there is a heightened risk of malnutrition among old people who do not qualify for formal social care packages or whose help does not include assistance with shopping or cooking hot meals. They are not getting that extra bit of help to make sure they are looking after themselves. Things are made worse by cuts to 'meals on wheels' and bus services and local shop closures. Fewer than half of local authorities now provide 'meals on wheels', down from 66% in 2011 and the Report adds that some councils have replaced them with a link on their website to takeaway food shops.

Frank has said : “Hidden beneath the radar, there are malnourished older people in this country spending two or three months withering away in their own homes, with some entering hospital weighing five and a half stone [35kg] with an infection or following a fall, which keeps them there for several tortuous days, if not weeks. The elimination of malnutrition amongst older people is urgently required for the sake of the NHS, and social care services, but above all for purposes of humaneness.”

Izzi Seccombe, Chair of the Local Government Association’s 'Community Wellbeing Board', said : “Significant funding pressures on councils are already threatening services that elderly people and their friends and families rely on, particularly meals on wheels and luncheon clubs.”

The Government, whose austerity policy is the root cause of malnourished old men and women in Britain, thinks that the answer is to spot them before they become malnourished and a spokesperson said : “Malnutrition is a complex issue and most patients diagnosed in England have other serious health and social problems. We know better diagnosis and detection is key, which is why we continue to train all health staff to spot the early warning signs of malnutrition so effective treatment can be put into place.”

Britain's hungry old men can take heart that their Government is not preventing them to become malnourished, but is training staff to spot them before they fade away.

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