The number of adults being admitted to hospital with malnutrition has more than doubled in the last decade, amid a growing social care crisis.
Admissions related to a primary diagnosis of malnutrition increased to 735 in 2017-18 from 348 in 2008-09, according to new figures released by NHS Digital.
And charities have claimed that the increase is symptomatic of the current crisis in social care, with vulnerable people being left to starve for want of help at home or in care homes.
There was also a dramatic increase in the number of admissions with a secondary diagnosis of malnutrition, with the figure more than trebling over the last ten years from 2,545 to 7,803.
This means that the total number of admissions with a diagnosis of malnutrition has risen from 2,893 to 8,537.
The data was released in response to a parliamentary question about malnutrition-related admissions put forward by Eleanor Smith, a Labour MP representing Wolverhampton South West.
According To the Daily Telegraph, charities have attributed the huge increase to the fact that frail pensioners were not receiving care, or that care workers had had inadequate time to help them properly.
Lesley Carter, from Age UK, said many isolated elderly people were being left to waste away, without anyone noticing.
“Often they are becoming depressed and losing their appetite, they won’t see a doctor because they worry about taking up their time, they know how hard it is to get an appointment and by the time they are admitted to hospital things have got so much worse,” she told the Telegraph.
She said care visits were so rushed that meals were dumped in front of frail pensioners, with workers leaving without checking whether they were able to eat them.
In response to the figures, A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman told the newspaper: “We must do all we can to avoid people becoming malnourished and better diagnosis and detection is key.
“We are committed to training all health and care staff to spot the early warning signs so effective treatment can be put in place.”