The Government is taking a number of steps to prevent cases of malnutrition and ensure that people, particularly the young, the vulnerable and the elderly, are getting an adequate diet.
Through the Healthy Start programme, the Government provides a nutritional safety net to hundreds of thousands of pregnant women, families and children under four who are from low income households. For example, Healthy Start vitamin vouchers are offered for free to Healthy Start beneficiaries. Vitamin tablets are available to pregnant women and women with a child under one year old, and children’s vitamin drops are available for those between six months and four years old.
Some 1.1 million children get free school meals, and the Government is investing £26 million in breakfast clubs. The School Fruit and Vegetables scheme provides 2.3 million children with a portion of fresh fruit or vegetables each day at school. This contributes towards the recommended five portions a day and helps encourage healthier eating for life. The nursery milk scheme also provides a free daily portion of milk to 1.5 million children and babies.
Important guidance has been published on tackling malnutrition. For example, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence 2012 quality standard 'Nutrition support in adults’ provides advice to the National Health Service to help identify patients who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. NHS England published guidance in 2015 on improving the delivery and commissioning of nutrition and hydration care in acute services and the community.
The Government have provided £500,000 to the charity Age UK’s Malnutrition Taskforce to reduce malnutrition among older people and we will continue to train all health staff so early action can be taken. The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 requires care homes to make sure that people have enough to eat and drink to meet their nutrition and hydration needs and receive the support they require to do so. The Care Quality Commission can prosecute breaches.
Government advice on a healthy, balanced diet is encapsulated in the Eatwell Guide. This shows the proportions in which different types of foods are required to have a well-balanced and healthy diet. Further information is at: