Providing nutrition to older people in care homes…

…what is the state of the industry?

Since launching Saffron Care Catering, we’ve found there’s actually surprisingly little detail in the public domain about the state of older people’s nutrition and who is providing nutrition to older people in care homes Here we’re delving deeper into:

A snapshot of the numbers involved in older people and residential care

As a figure for the whole UK, AgeUK calculates from the latest Laing and Busson survey that ‘there are an estimated 4,699 nursing homes and 6,023 residential homes without nursing in the UK.’ The same survey also asserts that ‘there are 421,100 people aged 65+ in residential care (including with nursing).’ [1] However, very elderly people are actually not so present in the residential setting: only 14.8% of people aged 85+ in the UK live in care homes [2].

To drill down to a country level, AgeUK also calculated that ‘In England, approximately 405,000 people aged over 65 are living in almost 18,000 care homes.’ [3]

That’s interesting as a statistical snapshot in time – but obviously care is long term. So what stay durations is the residential care industry looking at’ The figures are sobering:

  • Around 27% of people lived in care homes for more than three years. [4]
  • The median period from admission to the care home to death is 462 days (15 months). [5]
  • People had a 55% chance of living for the first year after admission, which increased to nearly 70% for the second year before falling back over subsequent years. [6]

Infographic - Nutrition and Older People in Residential Care Homes No Links

The state of funding for older people’s residential care throughout the country

It’s clear, both anecdotally and from the statistics, that there is a very real problem posed by the reduction in social care funding in real terms. There are also additional financial pressures compounding the reduction in funding. Other costs that have to come out of the ever-decreasing social care budget allocated to local authorities are:

  • The introduction of the National Living Wage.
  • Costs of complying with the first phase of the Care Act 2014, such as better information and advice for self-funders, and enhanced support for unpaid carers.
  • Costs of implementing other requirements introduced alongside the Care Act, such as paying staff for travel between appointments, and for sleepovers.

Local authorities, and by extension, the care homes and places that they fund, are having to do more with less money.

AgeUK estimates that there has been a £160million cut in total spending in real terms on older people’s social care in the five years to 2015/16. [7] 

The Health Foundation has much to report on the social funding gap:

  • Public spending by local authorities on adult social care has fallen for six consecutive years, and by 9% in real terms between 2009/10 and 2014/15. [8]
  • Grant funding for local authorities is being reduced by £6.1billion by 2019/20. [9]
  • There is ‘a new one-off grant for adult social care providing £240million to local authorities in 2017/18.’* (*This funding is redirected from the New Homes Bonus, so it does not represent additional funding for local authorities.) [10]
  • The Health Foundation also calculates that ‘the social care funding gap is expected to increase from around £2billion in 2017/18 to over £4bn in 2020/21.’ [11]

What does this mean specifically for care homes and the funding they receive from local authorities’ The problem is clear, according to these figures form the National Audit Office:

  • ‘Rates that local authorities pay for care home places for older people rose less than providers’ costs between 2009-10 and 2013-14.’ [12]

Obviously, that means less money available from the government for residents and their care (and subsequently for their nutritional requirements), that will have to be found via top-up fees or elsewhere. Does this have an effect on older people’s already precarious nutrition, and will it continue to do so?

Malnutrition and older people

As we’ve explored in our Introduction to Saffron Care Catering, it becomes more difficult for us to get the correct nutrition, and recognise our changing needs, as we get older.

This has been recognised by the industry, of course, and some screening has been put in place. The screening has meant that the visibility of malnutrition is increasing:

  • Of residents recently admitted to care homes and screened, 35% were at risk of malnutrition. [13]

But what happens once the resident is in the care home?

  • 50% of older people admitted to hospital from care homes were found to be at risk of malnutrition. [14]

How does this compare to the wider population’ AgeUK’s Later Life in the UK cites the following, so we can get a bigger picture:

  • Latest estimates suggest 1.3 million people over 65 suffer from malnutrition, and the vast majority (93%) live in the community.  [15]
  • Nearly one third of all older people admitted to hospital are at risk of malnutrition.  [16]

What is the residential care industry doing about the problem of malnutrition in older people’

Reassuringly, while there may not be as much research out there as some other fashionable causes, malnutrition is becoming more visible, and so public bodies are starting to produce more and more guidance to address the problem. Some of the current advice and frameworks that the industry can use includes:

How we can helpSaffron Care Catering on Ipad

Saffron Care Catering is our new product built specifically for the unique challenges of providing food to older people in residential care homes. It relates explicitly to some of the difficulties we’ve identified here – and so seeks to resolve the problems illuminated by the research we’ve cited.

Saffron Care Catering uses the relevant functions of our various Saffron modules to help care homes to:

  • build recipes and menus according to residents’ preferences and needs
  • nutritionally analyse them and benchmark where appropriate
  • cost food from ingredient to menu level
  • Streamline purchasing functions.

You can find out much more in our Introduction to Care Catering. For a demonstration of Saffron Care Catering, call us on 0114 281 6060, email us at, or fill out our contact form.

[1] Care of Older People UK Market Report, Laing and Buisson, 2017

[2] Care of Older People UK Market Report, Laing and Buisson, 2017

[3] Policy Position Paper Dignity in Health and Social Care (England), AgeUK, March 2016

[4] Care of Older People UK Market Report, Laing and Buisson, 2017

[5] Care of Older People UK Market Report, Laing and Buisson, 2017

[6] Length of stay in care homes. Julien Forder and Jose-Luis Fernandez, PSSRU Discussion Paper 2769, 2011

[7] Age UK Briefing: Health and Care of Older People in England 2017

[8] Nuffield Trust, Health Foundation, The King’s Fund. The Autumn Statement: Joint statement on health and social care. 2016. Available from:

[9] Briefing: The social care funding gap: implications for local health care reform, The Health Foundation

[10] Briefing: The social care funding gap: implications for local health care reform, The Health Foundation

[11] Calculation available from

[12] National Audit Office (NAO). Adult Social Care in England: Overview. NAO; 2014

[13] ‘Nutrition Screening Surveys in care homes in the UK ,’ BAPEN,

[14] C A Russell and M Elia (2014) Nutrition screening surveys in hospitals in the UK, 2007-2011. BAPEN

[15] Russell, C.A. and Elia, M. for BAPEN and collaborators. (2014) Nutrition Screening Surveys in Hospitals in the UK, 2007-2011, A report based on the amalgamated data from the four Nutrition Screening Week surveys undertaken by BAPEN in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. Available from: 

[16] C A Russell and M Elia (2014) Nutrition screening surveys in hospitals in the UK, 2007-2011. BAPEN

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