Nearly half of nurses (42%) say they do not have enough time to ensure patients get good nutrition during their working day, a new survey from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) reveals. The findings come as the RCN launches a campaign today to improve patient nutrition in hospitals and the community at its Annual Congress in Harrogate.
The RCN survey of over two-thousand nurses across the UK identified the main barriers facing nurses helping patients to get good nutrition. Just under half (49%) of hospital nurses said the lack of availability of food outside of mealtimes was a factor. Nearly half (46%) of hospital nurses surveyed said generally there are not enough staff to ensure patients get the help needed to eat and drink.
Over a quarter (28%) of nurses said there is not a requirement in the nursing documentation for them to record patients' nutritional needs. The survey also showed that 95% of nurses rate patient nutrition as extremely important or important.
Professor Alison Kitson, Executive Director for Nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Good nutrition and hydration are vital for all of us, but they are even more important for people who are ill. Nurses really do care deeply about this but to ensure that good patient nutrition happens, it needs to be a priority for everybody in the system from the catering staff through to chief executives.
“Only then will nurses be able to break through the obstacles and get the time and resources to ensure better patient care. The time has come to really make this a top priority. Our campaign will highlight the need to tackle this issue and take action now.”
The campaign - Nutrition Now - will run throughout 2007 and aims to raise awareness of the importance of food and drink to patient health and to ensure that patients get good nutritional care. The campaign builds on work the College has been doing in collaboration with the UK Governments and other stakeholders. Throughout the year the campaign will focus on specific health sectors such as mental health, the community, public health and child health.
The campaign will stress the leadership role nurses take on this issue. It will highlight the need for the whole healthcare team including managers to make sure that systems are in place to support nurses in this role. The campaign will also give nurses the practical tools, support and evidence they need to make nutrition a priority in the area where they work.
A set of RCN Principles for Nutrition and Hydration has also been published to launch the campaign. These give nurses a set of basic guiding principles to use to push forward and improve patient nutrition where they work. These principles have been developed in partnership with frontline nurses, patient groups and other key stakeholders.
Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, said: “It is shocking that so many nurses say they do not always have enough time for the essential care of helping patients with eating and drinking. Food and help with eating should be a top priority for all ward staff, and they should be given time to perform this task.. Age Concern fully supports the RCN’s campaign to tackle this problem with practical solutions.”
The RCN Nutrition Now campaign is supported by Abbot Nutrition.
Full details of the campaign along with the Principles document and a range of other tools can be viewed and downloaded at the RCN’s Nuttrtiton Now website at www.rcn.org.uk/nutritionnow.