Undernutrition Panel
March 18, 2016

How our care home undernutrition service is enhancing care in the Southern Ireland Health and Social Care Tust

Our award winning undernutrition service is improving the quality of care for residents in care homes through increased monitoring. The care Home undernutrition service has been commissioned and piloted by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland, resulting in more proactive treatment, due to regular telephone reviews and the timely response of dietitians.

The Health Call care home undernutrition service ran in 14 care homes in Northern Ireland, 11 in Newry and Mourne, and 3 in Armagh and Dungannon. The undernutrition service facilitates co-ordinated care with a closer collaboration between care homes, dietitians and NHS care teams using Health Call’s secure web-based portal. Care home residents at risk of undernutrition are closely monitored fortnightly or weekly by care home staff, who input the patient’s weight, appetite, and compliance to oral nutritional supplements (ONS) into the web-based portal. If any of the patients’ data falls outside of pre-set parameters, a member of the dietetic team is alerted to make appropriate contact with the care home to provide dietary advice.

As a result of Health Call’s care home undernutrition service being implemented in 14 care homes in Northern Ireland, dietitians save over two hours per patient enrolled on the service.  This time can now can be spent with more complex patients, while care home staff are able to feel empowered to take more responsibility of the less vulnerable residents in their care. Previously, a dietitian visited every patient at risk of undernutrition every 6 weeks.  Now these readings can be taken by care home staff as part of their morning routine, providing a wealth of patient data which can be evaluated remotely. This reduces the unnecessary dietetic travel time and costs.

The undernutrition service acts as an early warning system, enabling fluctuations in weight and nutritional health to be highlighted early on.  This means that timely interventions can be implemented sooner, reducing the risk of adverse outcomes. As a result of Health Call’s Care Home undernutrition service, the length of time patients were under dietetic care was reduced from 6-9 months, to 4 months. The pilot also reported a minimum of £1,600 saving on inappropriate ONS prescribing alone.

The pilot of the Care Home undernutrition service has improved the residents’ quality of care, because staff are now more aware of the importance of nutrition. The responsibility is shared between the care home staff, the dietitian and dietetic assistants. The input and support of the Health Call team in designing the care pathway has proved invaluable in its success. We hope to see this pilot encourage other Trusts to take up the service and improve the care of their elderly at risk of undernutrition. If you want to find out more, download our undernutrition brochure.

References
Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Nutrition and Dietetic Service, Health Call Undernutrition service, Helping the Nutrition and Dietetic Service meet the changing needs of health & social care, Evaluation Report, December 2015

https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/futurenhs/new-care-models/care-homes-sites/

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