An NHS Tayside roadshow highlighting the importance of food, drink and nutrition to clinical care was launched at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee this week. It is estimated that between 15% and 40% of patients who are admitted to UK hospitals are at risk of malnutrition. Ninewells is playing a significant role.
Dietetic consultant Joyce Thompson said "We're invested a lot of time in training staff to carry out assessments with patients. To begin with we have a discussion with the patient, then we weigh them and work out their body mass index to find out if they're already suffering from malnutrition, or if they're at risk. Patients are involved at every stage from menu to recipe development. There's been a lot of enthusiasm and positive vibes from the wards and the kitchen. At the end of the day, food and drink matters and it's something the patients talk about - they care."
To be honest, if you're in hospital food becomes the highlight of the day for most, or at least mealtime does. To think that between 15% and 40% of patients are at risk is a vast amount. A more interesting analysis would be to see how these percentages relate to age groups, although it is admitted the elderly are more vulnerable.
Now NHS Tayside is offering individual menus to patients, perhaps they can get around to ensuring every patient is able to feed themselves. Just the other week a friend mentioned when visiting her mother, she complained of hunger. It appears she couldn't reach her lunch tray and nobody offered help. Did my friend complain? No, she thought it would be a waste of time with endless letters going back and forth.
I wonder if this has extended to Scottish maternity units? In recent years Bounty, best known for providing "goodie bags" to mothers, have started to take photographs if newborn babies in increasing numbers of hospitals in England, signing separate contracts with trusts in which it agrees to pay out about £1.50 per picture taken.
It's staff - who are allowed to park free on hospital sites while patients and relatives are forced to pay - tour maternity wards with laptops and cameras and after a new mother arrives from the delivery suite they ask to take photos of the new child. If the mother signs up she is charged for the prints.
Surely this is an invasion of privacy - perhaps not legally but certainly morally. Childbirth is stressful enough without worrying about a complete stranger thrusting a camera into your baby's face then charging you for the privilege.