I suspect that many healthcare professionals were delighted at the publication of the Nuffield Trust's report on nutrition in hospitals (news, page 8, 22 April).

Not for the first time, the fundamental link between nutrition and the cost-effective provision of healthcare is being highlighted.

The important question we should all be asking is, will these concerns be translated into action?

It is essential that the vital part played by nutrition in the delivery of healthcare is given a higher priority within the health service. Following correspondence in HSJ on this issue (4 December 1997 and 15 January 1998), NHS Supplies made contact with a number of dieticians and caterers who champion the cause of nutrition and began to piece together a strategy to help improve nutritional supply without breaking the budget.

This process culminated in a plan to develop a range of nutritionally appropriate meals for the health service.

Our initial investigations were encouraging, showing that a collaborative approach could both generate savings and improve nutritional standards.

The Nuffield report clearly identifies the need to consider nutrition as an important issue in hospitals.

If one were to be critical, its main flaw is that it doesn't consider cost-effective ways of achieving this, confining its comments to the healthcare environment.

Cost will be the key to gaining support for action, and there is a wider commercial community willing and able to act as partners with the NHS to deliver not just economies but, even more importantly, an improved quality of life for patients - perhaps reducing or even avoiding hospitalisation through nutritional deficiency.

If this valuable report is to have any effect, not only must the problems be identified but a holistic sharing of the issue must take place across the breadth of the NHS, including primary care groups.

Patrick Duffy

Portfolio manager, food

NHS Supplies

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