New research project to implement nutritional care in the community for older people – from ‘novel practice to routine practice’

Nutrition

A new research project led by Bournemouth University (funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing) in collaboration with Wessex AHSN and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust is exploring how best to implement service improvements for nutrition screening and treatment for undernutrition in older people. A new model of nutritional care (screening and care) has been implemented to enable  integrated community teams to better identify and support older people considered at-risk. By working together, the team have started to carry out a three-stage study designed to establish a benchmark of current knowledge of interventions in the community and evaluate its success.

Malnutrition is a significant health problem for older people living in the community, with around 3 million older adults estimated to be at risk of under nutrition.  The health consequences can be quite far reaching and include slower recovery from illnesses and an increased need for healthcare, whether at home or in a hospital setting.  The cost of providing that care can be high, but could easily be prevented by screening and early intervention.

Lead researcher, Professor Jane Murphy explains what the team hope to achieve, “The cost of under nutrition in the UK is estimated to be around £19.6 billion, around half of this being spent on older people.  In terms of public health spending, that’s a very large sum, but is one that could be significantly reduced with better identification and early intervention.”

“We’ll be working with a number of different community and mental health teams within the Southern NHS Trust, representing both rural and urban areas, rehabilitation and hospital admission prevention.  We hope this mix will give us a real insight into the different issues faced by a number of different touch points older people may have with the health system.  It’ll also help us to see how effective the new early intervention process will be.”

The new procedure has been implemented by Intergrated Community Teams in Andover, Winchester and Basingstoke, with plans to further roll out across Hampshire and then further afield across England.  In addition to understanding the effectiveness of the model with respect to staff knowledge and patient outcomes, it will also understand factors that may help or hinder implementation of the new model, and embedding it as a routine aspect of care.

The project is informed by Normalization Process Theory and data collection and analysis will be led Dr. Mike Bracher, Post-doctoral Research Fellow (Bournemouth University). The ambition of the project is to maximise the potential for scalability and cost effectiveness of this new model, by providing an evidence base to support implementation across diverse settings in the health service.

The team have just completed the collection of baseline data to develop a better understanding of current knowledge and practice in relation to the intervention. It will be followed up by further data collection to investigate implementation and embedding of the model.  The research project is due to be completed next year.

For further information please contact Dr. Mike Bracher (Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Bournemouth University mbracher@bournemouth.ac.uk; or Professor Jane Murphy – jmurphy@bournemouth.ac.uk