Nutrition and patients

A doctor's responsibility


Report of a working party of the Royal College of Physicians


The clinical importance of nutrition is often overlooked by doctors yet 20% of the adult population of Britain are obese, while 40% of patients admitted to hospital and 10% of patients cared for in the community are judged to be undernourished. This wide ranging report looks at:

How under- and over-nutrition are closely linked to illness and disease

How nutrition can affect response to treatment and recovery

The doctor's responsibility in preventative and therapeutic nutritional care in hospitals and the community

The nutrition of vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those unable to feed themselves

The ways to ensure hospital patients are both encouraged to eat and are adequately fed

The deficiencies in medical education.


This is a wake-up call to clinicians to take clinical nutrition seriously. The recommendations for nutritional assessment of all patients are relevant to the practice of every clinician. Preventive measures are needed when patients are seen to be at risk of becoming too thin or fat, and treatment has to be well organised when under- or over-nutrition is deemed to affect clinical outcome.

Set in the context of clinical governance, and highlighting deficiencies in medical education, this is a comprehensive attempt to redress current shortcomings in nutritional care, with potential benefits to patients and society as a whole.

Doctors including hospital and public health physicians, general practitioners, nurses, dieticians, pharmacists, speech therapists, those responsible for elderly patients in residential care as well as managers and hospital caterers will find this report enlightening and helpful.


Contents: -

The relevance of nutrition to clinical practice

What all doctors need to know

Preventive nutritional care in the community

Therapeutic nutritional care in the community

Nutritional care in hospital

Provision of food in hospital

The recognition of nutrition in clinical governance

Education and training of doctors in nutrition.


Published July 2002 Available from the Royal College of Physicians