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An NHS result – but what’s the cause of it?

Summary:
A fascinating finding from the National Health Service here. That old people in hospital do better if they’re fed more. Specifically, those going in for hip problems fare very much better if they’re fed an extra meal a day. The question is here, well, what’s the cause of this improvement? Giving elderly patients an extra meal a day halves their chances of dying in hospital, an NHS pilot scheme is showing.Death rates among those admitted with hip fractures have plummeted since the scheme was introduced two years ago, prompting medical chiefs to consider recommending it nationally, The Telegraph can reveal.Experts behind the programme say older patients are typically failing to consume enough nutrients while convalescing on geriatric wards.They believe this contributes to the toll of more

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A fascinating finding from the National Health Service here. That old people in hospital do better if they’re fed more. Specifically, those going in for hip problems fare very much better if they’re fed an extra meal a day. The question is here, well, what’s the cause of this improvement?

Giving elderly patients an extra meal a day halves their chances of dying in hospital, an NHS pilot scheme is showing.

Death rates among those admitted with hip fractures have plummeted since the scheme was introduced two years ago, prompting medical chiefs to consider recommending it nationally, The Telegraph can reveal.

Experts behind the programme say older patients are typically failing to consume enough nutrients while convalescing on geriatric wards.

They believe this contributes to the toll of more than 4,000 elderly people who die within a month of being admitted for a hip fracture each year.

What we do now is obvious enough - we feed old people in hospital more.

But we’d still like to know why this is so, why is there this improvement?

As a first estimate we’d not think that a national and government managed health care system was providing insufficient calories in the general diet. All those experts, all that attention paid to hospital food, it simply cannot be that we are starving our elderly. Not by plan at least.

So, what is it? Our suspicion - and it’s very much a suspicion, nothing else - would be that the process of an experiment like this is what has caused the benefit. To do an experiment one must measure exactly how much people are eating. Monitor matters. Make sure they are ingesting the food provided. It could possibly be - and we mention this as only the vaguest of possibilities - that without the experiment not enough attention is paid to how much of the food provided is actually being eaten.

Perhaps, whisper it, not enough nursing attention is given to people finishing up their plate?

Fortunately this is easy enough to test. Run two wards on equal experiments, equal in their measurement and monitoring methods at least. Provide that extra meal on one, not on the other. That way we’ll find out whether it’s the extra food being provided - that is, our current meal plans just don’t contain enough calories - or the extra attention to the food provided being eaten - that we’ve an inadequacy in nursing attention.

It’ll be fascinating to see the results, won’t it?

Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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