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Flagship food initiative goes national

An award winning health initiative which is radically reducing undernutrition in County Durham and Darlington is launching a national training package.

The innovative work of Focus on Undernutrition (FoU) has enabled County Durham and Darlington to lead the way nationally on identifying and treating undernutrition.

The FoU service delivers accredited training and support to health and social care staff on how to identify and treat undernutrition.

Rachael Masters, Team Lead Dietitian, Focus on Undernutrition said: "Locally, we have been delivering training through visits to health and social care environments across the county. We have implemented FoU in over 75 local care homes, trained over 3000 healthcare staff and 400 catering staff. Since the programme has become so successful and has been recognised nationally as a flagship project we wanted to make it more accessible to a wider audience.

"We have developed and are now ready to launch a new website which includes access to e-learning packages.  We have put together two different e-learning tools, one which is aimed at identifying and treating undernutrition in care homes and one which is focused on the community, so people who are living in their own homes.

"The e-learning packages are an alternative, more flexible approach to training for staff working in the community setting and in care homes regarding undernutrition.

"We've designed the packages to be as user friendly as possible, they're easy to navigate and include different learning methods such as videos, drag and drop activities and multiple choice questions.

"We are delighted to be launching the e-learning and are very excited about the opportunities this will bring. The e-learning allows us to provide the same high quality training in a flexible way so that it can be accessed by organisations and companies across the UK."

Undernutrition is often thought of as being a problem of the 3rd world but unfortunately it is a major problem within the UK and is not isolated to hospitals. At any one time it is estimated that there are over 3 million people in the UK who are at risk of undernutrition, 93% will be living in the community many of whom will not be identified as being at risk and therefore not treated. However, if undernutrition is treated then associated complications can be reduced by 70% and mortality by 40%.

Working with two care homes in County Durham, the FoU team piloted the e-learning packages.

Caroline Lecko, from the National Patient Safety Agency said "The challenges of preventing undernutrition should not be under estimated. It is essential that healthcare staff are equipped with the knowledge to understand the importance of good nutritional care. The Focus on Undernutrition e-learning resource will be a valuable resource in helping healthcare staff to recognise individuals who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition and to implement appropriate and practical care pathways to support those at risk".

Joyce Spencely, from Howlish Hall Nursing Home said: "The e-learning packages worked very well. It is a positive step for the FoU programme and it will be an advantage for us with new starters when they can access the training online. It's more flexible and will save staff time."

The training package, which takes approximately two hours to complete, includes access to a wide range of resources and information.

A cake was kindly produced by Broom Mill Farm in West Auckland for the event and was cut by Sue Jacques, Chief Executive, Tony Waites, Chairman and Rachael Masters.

If you would like further information about the Focus on Undernutrition e-learning or other resources please contact 01388 452330 or or email

Published: 23 March 2012

'Care received was fantastic and I was very well looked after and very impressed.'

Patient, Day Surgery, Darlington Memorial Hospital