A celebrity cast has joined forces with leading older people's charity, Age Concern, to create a series of promotional video clips to help improve nutritional standards on hospital wards.

Three viral video clips, available via youtube, have been produced with the help and support of Steve Mangan, best known for his role as 'Dr Guy', from TV sitcom, The Green Wing, alongside fellow actors Leila Hoffman, Daphne Alexander and Colin Duvall. In one of the clips, Steve Mangan plays a doctor, who tries unsuccessfully to disrupt an older person's mealtime - think Mr Bean crossed with Mission Impossible.

The comical sketches use light humour to focus on three of the charity's Hungry to be Heard seven steps[1] to stamp out the malnutrition of older people on hospital wards.

Created as an awareness raising tool for nurses, doctors, other health professionals, and the wider public, the clips use the themes of protected mealtimes, red-tray systems and mealtime volunteers to show how good nutrition can aid an older patient's recovery while in hospital.

Through this new initiative, the charity hopes that more hospitals will 'protect' older people's mealtimes from non-urgent activity such as ward rounds and routine tests, so patients are free to eat without interruptions. It also calls for red-tray systems to be introduced to help identify those who need assistance at mealtimes and to use volunteers where appropriate to help patients to eat.

Patrick South, Head of Public Affairs of Age Concern, said:

"These unique video clips illustrate simple solutions that can be implemented by nurses on a local level to help solve a national problem.

"For older people, missed meals in hospital can be as big a risk as missing medication. Every hospital needs to make sure staff in every ward are doing all they can, so that older people don't go hungry.

"We hope that these new clips will spread our nutritional messages across the NHS and to ministers who should include a pledge to ensure high quality; non-clinical services like hospital meals are included in the new NHS constitution."

Steve Mangan, aka Dr Guy of TV sitcom, The Green Wing, said: "I wanted to be part of this Age Concern campaign, because in about thirty year's time, I plan to be old. If I end up in hospital and I don't get to eat properly, I'm not going to be happy!

"And if nothing has been done by the time I get old, I am going to come into the staff canteen and take their food away from them and see how they like them apples!"

Over the past two years, Age Concern has highlighted that many older people are going hungry on hospital wards because they are not being given the right food or the support they need to eat at mealtimes. Hungry to be Heard continues to encourage hospitals to put systems in place to identify patients who need assistance with eating and drinking - and then to make sure that people actually get that help.

Recent data from monitoring undertaken by the charity shows that despite heightened public awareness and a commitment from the Government[1] to tackle the problem, 43% of NHS Trusts have still not introduced protected mealtimes.

The charity also found that a shocking one in three NHS Trusts are still to introduce red-tray systems. Given the effectiveness of volunteers in helping out with mealtimes, evidence from the campaign that eight of ten NHS Trusts have not rolled out volunteer schemes is also disappointing.

Age Concern launched its Hungry to be Heard campaign in August 2006. In exposing the national scandal of malnourished older patients in hospitals, the campaign voices the concerns of older people and their relatives/carers about inappropriate meals and a lack of assistance with eating for those who are unable to manage on their own.

The seven steps for Hungry to Be Heard are:

- Hospital staff must listen to older people, and their relatives and carers
- All ward staff must become 'food aware'
- Hospital staff must follow their own professional codes and guidance from other bodies
- Older people must be assessed for the signs or danger of malnourishment on admission and at regular intervals during their stay
- Introduce 'protected mealtimes'
- Implement a 'red tray system' and ensure that it works in practice
- Use volunteers where appropriate

To view the new Hungry to be Heard viral clips, please visit youtube/AgeConcernEngland. To find out more about Age Concern's Hungry to be Heard campaign, visit ageconcern/htbh.

Age Concern is the largest organisation in the UK working for older people. Everyday we are in touch with thousands of older people, enabling them to make more of life. Our services include information and advice, befriending, day centres, lunch clubs, transport services, home visits, and advocacy services. More information can be found on our website: ageconcern

[1] Hungry to be Heard's seven recommended steps are outlined in the notes to editors

Age Concern

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