Improving food in residential care

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Summary of report content

5% of the UK’s elderly population reside in care homes, many of whom are frail and experience multiple health risks. Part of the service delivery in residential care includes the provision of food and drink, which influences the physical and social health of residents. Research surrounding the nutritional status of the elderly highlights the risk of under-nutrition in care even though food provision in itself is adequate – an estimated 41% of hospital admissions surrounding malnutrition derive from care home settings as it predisposes the elderly to diseases, falls and hinders their recovery from illness. Locally, issues around food quality, nutrition levels and the impact of nutrition and hydration on wellbeing and hospital admissions have been identified, including the skill levels of workers who are required to prepare safe and nourishing meals. Residential care food provision is monitored by various UK organisations, but these generally focus on food safety as opposed to nutritional content. There is evidence to show that food served contains high levels of fat, salt and free sugars, reflected in Healthwatch Kirklees’ research and highlighting the lack of knowledge of staff working in care homes who design the menus, rather than qualified professionals who understand the nutritional requirements of the elderly. Healthwatch Kirklees’ research found various obstacles impeding adequate nutrition and hydration for people in care homes - staff knowledge and training, time pressures, budgets and differing policies surrounding supplementation or mealtimes, all of which impact the vulnerable people who rely on the care they receive in the home. Food provision needs to be more carefully considered with the provision of additional hands-on assistance in order to ensure menus and cooking methods meet the nutritional needs of service users. Eating is an activity in care homes, but it should also be seen as a form of therapy in its own right that maintains or improves health, no matter what level of health that may be.

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General details

Report title 
Improving food in residential care
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Kirklees
Date of publication 
Thursday, 7 April, 2016
Date evidence capture began 
Thursday, 7 April, 2016
Date evidence capture finished 
Thursday, 7 April, 2016
Type of report 
Key themes 
Food and nutrition
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
Primary research method used 
Structured interview
How was the information collected? 
Visit to provider
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Social care services 
Residential care home

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Not known
Not known
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
Types of health and care professionals engaged 
Service manager
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.