Dietitians urge govt to adopt home national framework

21 July, 2009

Governments could be saving up to $7.88 million a year if they adopt a national home enteral nutrition (HEN) service, according to Australia’s leading nutrition organisation1.

The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) said access to adequate food and nutrition is a basic human right but many people relying on home tube feeding and nutrition supplements have poor access to the nutrition support they need. And this varies for each State and Territory.

DAA CEO Claire Hewat said around 15,000-16,500 home patients access HEN2, due to conditions such as stroke, head and neck cancer, and cystic fibrosis. She described the current HEN services in Australia as ‘problematic and fragmented’, and said this often resulted in compromised patient care and unnecessary hospital readmissions.

Sue O’Reilly, parent of HEN patient Shane, said: ‘Returning to Australia from the United Kingdom, I was shocked and upset to discover how poorly co-ordinated and organised the HEN system is in Australia compared to overseas.’

Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) Dr Merrilyn Banks said simple strategies, such as better access to APDs and HEN formula and equipment, can help improve patient health and save health care dollars.

‘Providing a streamlined and efficient system for HEN will help discharge patients from hospital sooner and prevent readmissions due to HEN-related complications with savings of up to $8 million,’ said Dr Banks.

In its recent submission to the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC), DAA called for a national framework to address inequities in accessing HEN services across Australia. The Health Policy Priorities Principal Committee, which advises AHMAC, meets on Tuesday to discuss HEN services.

DAA is calling on the Ministers to ensure all Australians requiring HEN services for their basic nutrition needs have access to skilled clinical care, such as an APD, and affordable HEN formula and equipment.

DAA thanked Nutricia Australia for providing funding to support a project officer to assist DAA members develop the Association’s submission to AHMAC.