All patients are now to be screened for malnutrition on admission to any of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's acute hospitals. The hospitals are beginning the use of the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST), to screen and monitor patients and make sure they receive optimal nutritional care.
Led by Nutrition Project Nurse Elaine Gordon and Specialist Dietitian Leigh Hamilton, the MUST tool will be implemented in full over the coming year. Elaine believes it's an important step forward: "Proper nutrition is such a vital part of getting healthy and staying healthy, and especially so for people who are in hospital. By screening patients virtually "at the door", we can find out exactly what they need and provide appropriate treatment and assistance for anyone who is either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition."
MUST will be used in the first instance to screen each patient who is admitted to any one of ten identified pilot areas over the next three months, and will then be rolled out to the rest of the NHSGGC acute hospitals over the coming year. Patients will be screened within 24 hours of admission and re-screened on a weekly basis, so that their progress can be monitored. The tool is designed to identify anyone who is at risk of malnutrition. This may include patients who are under-nourished, patients who may be avoiding food because of an underlying illness or who might have special nutritional needs related to their condition.
There are two principal benefits to MUST. Primarily, a uniform screening tool will ensure that a rigorous checking system is applied for every patient who is admitted. Any patient who is at risk of malnutrition will be identified and given the appropriate treatment.
Each patient who is nutritionally screened using MUST and then found to be at nutritional risk will receive an individually tailored care plan, including appropriate nutritional advice, involving staff from a number of different disciplines.
Leigh Hamilton explains that providing uniform screening will simplify the system for the benefit of vulnerable patients: "MUST is a five-step programme, which is very easy for staff to use. It will primarily be nursing staff who use MUST to screen patients, and then dietetic colleagues will provide any expert input that's necessary for those patients who are at risk".
MUST builds on current good practice, and Elaine Gordon says it will also introduce nutritional screening in some clinical areas where it has not until now been generally applied: "Nutritional screening is already carried out as a matter of routine in some wards, and some great work is being done out there, but the introduction of the same single mechanism across NHSGGC will result in a more consistent approach and that can only help patients.
"Concerted efforts need to be made by all of us who work in hospitals to make sure patients get the best possible care. Nutrition is a very important part of that and MUST will be used to ensure each patient gets the nutrition they need."
Elaine and Leigh, as members of the NHSGGC Nutritional Care Group, are responsible for ensuring widespread communication of information to staff working across the health board area in relation to nutritional care. They have developed a quarterly newsletter and a dedicated intranet page to which all staff have access. The team has also been working closely with clinical staff in the ten clinical areas piloting the system to educate them on the value of nutritional screening. An e-learning module, Nutritional Screening: A 'MUST' for Healthcare, is also being developed to allow staff to complete further training.
The initial ten pilot areas will be implemented over the next three months, with all other clinical areas coming on-stream across NHSGGC's acute hospitals over the remainder of the year.
For more information please contact NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Communications on 0141 201 4429.