Nutrition - knowledge and skills

Education and training

Nursing staff need access to skills training that ensures that they can contribute to nutritional care through their understanding of the tools, techniques and current best practices.

The National Patient Safety Agency says about training as one of the '10 characteristics of good nutritional care'.  "Training in itself is not just a key characteristic of good nutritional care; it also underpins all of the others" (National Patient Safety Agency 2009, para1).

In the document 'Malnutrition matters' the following items are identified in answer to the question "what should the education and training include?" in relation to nutritional screening, assessment and care planning:

(BAPEN 2012, p.23). 

The toolkit is designed to help commissioners and providers organise nutritional care. It details the kinds of evidence that providers can submit in order to demonstrate that staff have attained competences appropriate to their role, including:

Patient Safety First: Nutrition and hydration week 2013 - a taste of patient safety: 18-24 March 2013

On 18 March 2013 Patient Safety First, with the support of key partners, hosted the second annual Nutrition and Hydration Week (#NHW2013) to reinforce and focus energy, activity and engagement on nutrition and hydration as part of patient safety improvement. During the week a series of informative and interactive webinar sessions were held and a number of simple activities were promoted, that were designed to support patient safety improvement around nutrition and hydration, including a patient safety pledge. See: Nutrition and hydration week 2013 webinars.

A section for sharing guidance and tools and other resources was also developed. See: Nutrition and hydration guides, tools and resources from you.

Patient Safety First: A taste of patient safety. Nutrition and hydration week: webinars
The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) and Patient Safety First held a special week focused on nutrition and hydration in January 2012. This page in the Patient Safety first website provides details of the week and the series of WebEx sessions that were held during the week. You need to register and log-in to access the recordings of the WebEx sessions. The sessions are on: patient safety and nutrition and hydration, and issues from the National Reporting and Learning System; developing a multidisciplinary approach to fluid balance; impact of the Consultant Nutrition Nurse Specialist; audit of fasting times in elective patients; a project on educating care home cooks.

Learning resources

The following online resources are available.

RCN Learning Zone (2010) Supporting people's nutritional needs - getting started
This learning area, which can be accessed from the CPD online page, has been primarily developed for health care assistants (HCAs) but is also useful for any practitioner who needs to update their practice. You can also use this learning area to check your own learning and understanding gained from this online resource on nutrition and hydration.

BAPEN (2009) E-learning resources on nutritional screening for hospitals and the community
These two modules which explain how to use MUST have been developed by BAPEN in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and are designed for health and care staff working in hospitals, primary care and care home. Each include case studies and care plans appropriate for the work place and an online assessment tool. This page in the BAPEN website provides information on how the modules can be accessed.

NHS Education for Scotland (NES): Nutritional care in hospitals online learning resource
This is a web-based programme developed as part of the Nutritional Care in Hospitals initiative to support the delivery of the core nutrition pathway in Scotland. The resource aims to support all staff involved in nutritional care in hospital and encompasses nutritional care of patients from admission to hospital through to discharge, underlining the significance of nutrition across the entire patient journey. It serves to promote the development of nutritional thinking at each of the key stages in the nutritional care process.

NES Learning in nutrition toolkit
The toolkit has been developed by NHS Education for Scotland as part of the ‘Nutritional care in hospitals’ online learning programme. It includes guidance to support learning activities, including competency based learning, and on nutrition courses and sources of information about courses available in Scotland. 

NHS Core Learning Unit: Food, nutrition and hydration in health and social care. E-learning training programme
This programme was developed by experts in the field of food, nutrition and hydration from key organisations including the RCN. The unit aims to help users understand the importance of nutrition and implications of malnutrition, ways of facilitating and supporting eating and ways of assisting service users to eat. To access the learning you need to register using an NHS email address.

Patient Safety First community
You can register to apply to join the community for updates, networking and online clinics. 


National Nurses Nutrition Group (NNNG) (2010) A competency framework for nutrition nurse specialists
Key objectives of the NNNG include the promotion of education on nutrition and related subjects for nurses and promoting the role of the Nutrition Nurse Specialist with in a multi-disciplinary nutrition support team. This competency framework for bands 6-8 is intended to be used in developing and enabling nurses working within nutrition support nursing. It can also be used for professional development purposes for example as part of a staff appraisal scheme. The framework is organised into seven clinical competences and three non-clinical competences. Please note that the framework is available in the membership area of the NNNG website.

Skills for Health competences / National Occupational Standards
Skills for Health provide a range of competences and National Occupational Standards (NOS) relevant to nutrition which include competences and standards on: reviewing and monitoring a patient's nutritional wellbeing; agreeing a dietary plan for patients with a specified medical condition; supporting individuals with long term conditions to manage their nutrition; contributing to meeting the nutritional needs of babies, children and young people; feeding individuals with techniques other than oral feeding. You can use the competence search tool to search for competences on specific topics.


These resources were last accessed on 7 May 2015. Some of them are in PDF format - see how to access PDF files.

BAPEN (2012) Toolkit for Clinical Commissioning Groups and providers in England: Malnutrition matters: meeting quality standards in nutritional care 2nd ed. (PDF 4.6MB), Redditch: BAPEN.

National Patient Safety Agency (2009) Nutrition factsheets. 10 key characteristics of good nutritional care.  Factsheet 08: Training. London: NPSA.

Further resources

Royal College of Nursing (2010) Principles of Nursing Practice: Principle F
The Principles describe what everyone can expect from nursing practice, whether colleagues, patients, their families or carers. Principle H encompasses themes of leadership contributing to an open and responsive culture. This page brings together RCN resources which are particularly relevant to this Principle.

You can view details of selected articles, which include articles on training and nursing role, from searches on British Nursing Index, and more information on how you can do these searches yourself at relevant articles.

For additional RCN resources that you can use to update your knowledge and skills in nutritional care see Discover more on nutritional care