LONDON, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- The lives of thousands of elderly patients in British hospitals are being saved just by giving them an extra meal a day, health experts revealed Sunday.
A pilot scheme backed by the National Health Service (NHS) says giving elderly patients an extra meal a day halves their chances of dying in hospital.
Results have revealed that death rates among those admitted with hip fractures have plummeted since the scheme was introduced two years ago at a number of hospitals, prompting medical chiefs to consider recommending it nationally.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that experts behind the program say older patients are failing to consume enough nutrients while convalescing on geriatric wards.
They believe this contributes to the toll of more than 4,000 elderly people who die within a month of being admitted for a hip fracture each year.
Five hospitals in England and one in Scotland introduced dedicated nutritional advisors who personally source the extra meal and sit with patients while it is eaten. They say the measure has coincided with a mortality drop from 11 to 5.5 percent.
Medics say the extra calories, plus the morale boost afforded by not eating alone, is making the difference between surviving traumatic breaks or not, according to the report.
Under the program nutritional advisors obtain extra meals from the hospital's public canteen, and even external shops and restaurants. Because boosting calorie intake is the priority, a blind eye is often turned when patients ask for less healthy food that would normally be banned in hospitals. Visiting family members and friends are also encouraged to bring along snacks and treats.
The results are currently being validated by the Royal College of Physicians ahead of possible recommendation that the practice becomes official policy.