‘Incumbent’ on county council to act on child malnutrition

PUBLISHED: 10:01 18 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:01 20 July 2020

The leader of Cambridgeshire County Council has said it is “incumbent” on his authority to take action against child malnutrition after new figures exposed the extent of the issue. This picture shows volunteers working inside a foodbank.

The leader of Cambridgeshire County Council has said it is “incumbent” on his authority to take action against child malnutrition after new figures exposed the extent of the issue. This picture shows volunteers working inside a foodbank.

Archant

The leader of Cambridgeshire County Council has said it is “incumbent” on his authority to take action against child malnutrition after new figures were published appearing to show the extent of the issue.

The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday (July 12) that Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, has recorded 915 admissions of under-16s due to malnourishment since 2015.

The NHS trust has since disputed the figures, saying “the correct number of young patients admitted between January 2015 and January 2020 is 33”.

The Observer’s report said the figures were obtained by the Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Layla Moran MP using Freedom of Information laws.

The Observer said the Cambridgeshire trust recorded the highest number of such cases of all the NHS trusts which responded to the request for information, which it said was fewer than two-thirds.

The Observer reported that in the first six months of this year 2,500 children have been admitted to hospital with malnutrition nationally, which it said is double the number as the same period last year. The rise raises questions over a possible link to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

Prior to the trust issuing a clarification, at Cambridgeshire County Council’s General Purposes Committee on Tuesday (July 14), Liberal Democrat councillor Lorna Dupre said the information is “extremely concerning” and called on the council to take action.

She said the council’s stated priorities “are absolutely struck to the heart by the situation in which twice as many children are being admitted to hospital for malnutrition.

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“I do think that’s something that needs to give this council huge pause for thought, and really needs to see us galvanised into action, because while it is in many respects a health problem, it is not only a health problem, and we are responsible for so many functions which can address and need to be addressing the issue of child malnutrition”.

Cllr Dupre added: “The Food Foundation found that one fifth of households with children in this country had been unable to access enough food in the proceeding weeks – that was in May a little bit into the lockdown.

“This is a national problem, but it is obviously as much of a problem here as anywhere else and maybe more so. And I would very much urge this committee to keep that at the forefront of its mind and be wanting to take urgent and cross-organisational action on that”.

The leader of the council, Conservative Steve Count, said he agreed that child malnutrition is a problem that goes beyond the boundaries of health care and said he would look into how the council can take action.

Cllr Count said: “The cause of malnutrition is a much wider societal responsibility and therefore it is incumbent on us to play our part, and I will be actioning some discussions with Gillian [the council’s chief executive] to see what our role in that will be moving forward”.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has since come forward with alternative figures, saying the previously reported figures are inaccurate.

A spokesperson said: “Figures reported in some national and local media on the number of children admitted to hospital with malnutrition at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are inaccurate.

“The correct number of young patients admitted between January 2015 and January 2020 is 33, and not 915 as has been reported. This has understandably caused considerable concern to many.

“We fully recognise that malnutrition in children is an important public health issue that should be subject to public scrutiny and open debate, but it is equally important that this takes place on the basis of the correct facts.”


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