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National awards for pioneering nutrition service

A flagship service, led by health professionals at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, to tackle undernutrition in health and social care settings is being recognised with two national awards.

Many malnourished older people are more vulnerable to life-threatening disease, but in County Durham and Darlington, dietitians have developed a pioneering programme to keep elderly people fed, healthy and disease resistant.

Focus on Undernutrition (FoU), developed by the dietetics service of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, has been recognised nationally for its remarkable results and is now being offered to other UK health providers.

It recently was awarded the title of "Nutrition resource of the year" by CN and dietitian Rachael Masters, who leads the eight strong FoU team, was awarded "Community nutrition professional of the year".

Rachael said: "I am amazed that what started as an idea over a cup of coffee has been so well received across the UK.  The feedback has been phenomenal, from how simple it is to use, to how it has significantly improved nutritional screening. The ethos of Focus on Undernutrition is to make the identification and treatment of undernutrition simple to ensure it is embedded into everyday working practices in health and social care settings.

"I feel very honoured to win the community nutritional professional of the year award for the work I have achieved with the FoU service. If someone had told me 11 years ago that the pilot project I commenced as a blank piece of paper would have evolved to the service we deliver today as a team I would never have believed them. I had a vision for FoU but the service is now exceeding those expectations and the team are still continuing to develop the service further. I am very passionate about tackling undernutrition in the community and that "passion" has won many of the barriers we have faced over the years. We are delighted that FoU training and other resources are now available for national use in other organisations though licensing." 

The FoU service delivers accredited training and support to health and social care community staff on how to identify and treat undernutrition. Treatment is by promoting food first approach followed by the appropriate prescribing of oral nutritional supplements.

The initiative has trained more than 350 cooks in 75 care homes in County Durham to prepare food that is appealing, rich in nutrients and easy to eat.

It has also trained more than 3,000 staff in the community, resulting in thousands of vulnerable people maintaining or gaining weight.

The training covers the nutritional needs of older people, how to identify and treat undernutrition, how to implement undernutrition screening programme into a care home. It involves issues ranging from menu planning to preparing fortified foods, pureed and moulded meals and the use of snacks and high-calorie shakes.

The innovative work of FoU has enabled County Durham and Darlington to lead the way nationally on identifying and treating undernutrition from a regional perspective.

The service is continuously evolving and is now developing two e-learning
packages for use in care homes and NHS community staff which mimic the accredited distance learning and master classes presently delivered in these areas.

Due to the national interest in the service, FoU is now available nationally as a toolkit to implement the service into another organisations via licensing.

Published: 28 September 2011

'I have to compliment everyone on their pleasant persona and their expertise and knowledge. By the end of the 5 days, I did not feel as though I had been in a hospital ward and was very relaxed.'

Patient, Ward 16 Orthopaedics, University Hospital of North Durham