Supporting nutrition in frail older people: a qualitative study exploring views of primary care and community health professionals
Christina Avgerinou, Cini Bhanu, Kate Walters, Helen Croker, Remco Tuijt, Jennifer Rea, Jane Hopkins, Maggie Kirby-Barr and Kalpa Kharicha
Background Malnutrition is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, and is very common in frail older people. However, little is known about how weight loss in frail older people can be managed in primary care. Aims To explore the views and practices of primary care and community professionals on the management of malnutrition in frail older people; identify components of potential primary care-based interventions for this group; and identify training and support required to deliver such interventions. Design and setting Qualitative study in primary care and community settings. Method Seven focus groups and an additional interview were conducted with general practice teams, frailty multidisciplinary teams (MDTs), and community dietitians in London and Hertfordshire, UK (n = 60 participants). Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results Primary care and community health professionals perceived malnutrition as a multifaceted problem. There was an agreement that there is a gap in care provided for malnutrition in the community. However, there were conflicting views regarding professional accountability. Challenges commonly reported by primary care professionals included overwhelming workload and lack of training in nutrition. Community MDT professionals and dietitians thought that an intervention to tackle malnutrition would be best placed in primary care and suggested opportunistic screening interventions. Education was an essential part of any intervention, complemented by social, emotional, and/or practical support for frailer or socially isolated older people. Conclusions Future interventions should include a multifaceted approach. Education tailored to the needs of older people, carers, and healthcare professionals is a necessary component of any intervention.