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Nutritional assessment in elderly care: a MUST!
  1. Madeleine Frank,
  2. Aravinth Sivagnanaratnam,
  3. Jo Bernstein
  1. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust
  1. Correspondence to
    Madeleine Frank madeleine.frank{at}


Malnutrition affects over three million people in the UK with associated health costs exceeding £13 billion annually.[1] In hospital, malnutrition has been shown to increase complication rates, morbidity, mortality, hospital readmissions, and length of hospital stay.[2] To screen for malnutrition, a reliable and validated screening tool such as the malnutrition universal screening tool (MUST) should be used.[3] We believe that improved patient outcomes and significant savings to the trust can be achieved, not only by ensuring that every patient has a MUST score documented, but that it is calculated correctly and the appropriate interventions are implemented.

We have carried out the audit three times (May, July, and November 2013). The study included the patients on the elderly care ward of Watford General Hospital (n=64, 62, and 63 respectively). MUST scores documented in nursing notes for each patient were noted. We re-calculated each MUST score ourselves for comparison. We went through patient notes and nursing information and noted which recommended nutritional interventions were being implemented.

Our results highlighted several issues:

1) Patients did not consistently have a MUST score documented

2) MUST scores were calculated incorrectly. This was generally due to BMIs calculated incorrectly, and patients’ weights from six months ago not being known

3) High MUST scores not being acted on appropriately.

Our interventions have involved liaising with various teams within the hospital to maximise the efficacy of the MUST score. This has included encouraging the trust to provide regular training to nurses because of high nursing staff turnover. Following our audit, the dietitian department agreed to undertake weekly ward rounds to screen for patients at risk of malnutrition. Our interventions so far have resulted in increased proportion of MUST scores being calculated (73 to 97%), and increased rates of patients being referred to dietitians (62 to 86% in the second audit cycle).

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