‘Poverty is causing vulnerable people … to go hungry and undernourished,’ shadow health secretary says [Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images].

Isn’t it interesting that the official figures show malnutrition increasing hugely, year-on-year, from 2008 onwards – the year when Employment and Support Allowance was introduced – but the Conservative Government is insisting that no cause can be identified?

ESA, with the hated, nonsensical Work Capability Assessment that governs whether a claimant qualifies for the benefit, was introduced in 2008.

This Blog ran an article on the increase in malnutrition in November, but reader Tony Dean went further – requesting information from the Department of Health.

In the financial year 2007-8, there were 7,695 primary diagnoses of malnutrition – up from 6,704 the previous year. Secondary diagnoses had fallen from 58,344 the previous year to 57,052.

From then on, the figures started to increase – hugely. In 2015-16 there were 17,166 primary diagnoses of malnutrition and a massive 167,362 secondary diagnoses.

Primary diagnoses describe the most serious or resource-intensive condition suffered by a patient who is hospitalised for any period of time. A secondary diagnosis describes those conditions that coexist at the time of admission, or develop subsequently, and that affect the patient for the current episode of care.

So we are seeing not only an increase in malnutrition as an illness in its own right, but a massive increase in it as a contributory factor to other illnesses.

The information may be found here. It was provided by Health Under-Secretary Nicola Blackwood in response to a question by Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth in November.

Ms Blackwood said: “The cause of the malnutrition is not presented in these figures and it not possible to make assumptions on which factor was responsible for the admission.

Malnutrition can be caused by a variety of factors, including an inability to absorb nutrients normally, or a condition or disease which affects a patient’s ability to feed normally.”

Oh, really?

Doesn’t this sound eerily similar to the Department for Work and Pensions’ mantra about suicides by benefit claimants? That line runs something like this: “Any suicide is a tragedy and the reasons for them are complex, however it would be inaccurate and misleading to link it solely to a person’s benefit claim.” (The word “solely” was added fairly recently, after the Department’s chiefs realised that mounting evidence had shown they could no longer deny all guilt. Strangely, nobody has yet prosecuted the DWP for corporate manslaughter after this admission).

This Writer thinks it is entirely possible to make assumptions on the facts responsible for the admissions. But there is no need to do so; unlike the suicides, people who have been treated for malnutrition are not likely to be dead.

So why not ask them why they were going hungry?

It’s a simple enough question. If the Department of Health is too busy to do the work itself, I’m sure some of the rest of us could step in and lend a hand.

Or is the government afraid of the answer?

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