Advising with empathy and experience

Dehydration and malnutrition in the NHS.


Startling figures have been disclosed by the government detailing deaths by thirst and starvation in NHS institutions last year.

In care homes eight people starved to death while another 21 died due to dehydration. In hospitals 43 people starved to death while doctors recorded a further 287 being malnourished when they had died. Doctors also recorded that 558 patients had died while in a state of severe dehydration.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association described that the statistics were a “grim and shaming reflection of 21st century Britain” she said “These are mothers, fathers and grandparents. It is hard enough to lose a loved one, but to find out they died because they were not adequately fed or hydrated, is a trauma no family should have to bear.”

This news follows a series of incidents relating to care of the elderly, which amongst other things led to doctors of Alexandra Hospital, Redditch resorting to prescribing drinking water to patients. It was also reported previously that in many wards nurses were leaving meal trays in front of patients incapable of feeding themselves. 

Further figures from the ONS show 21 deaths in care homes that were directly caused by dehydration with a total of 103 patients in a dehydrated state when they died. Furthermore 117 individuals died in NHS institutions on account of bedsores, while 767 were reported at the times of patient’s deaths.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director of Age UK, commented on the figures as “deeply distressing”, she went on to state “Hospitals and care homes must pick up the warning signs of malnutrition and ensure that while older people are in their care they get all the help and support they need to eat and drink.”

Rachel Griffiths of the CNCI team said “these figures are shocking and distressing. Access to nourishment and hydration is the most basic necessity. Sadly many of our institutions are failing to meet that need. It is imperative that families raise concerns if they feel that a loved one is not receiving the support they need.”