The number of local malnutrition cases has more than tripled over the past five years, new figures have revealed.
In 2009, just 16 people were admitted to either St Helens or Whiston Hospital suffering malnutrition.
But by last year, that figure had rocketed, with an alarming 48 malnourished people taken into medical care. While there is no hard data to prove a direct link between increasing cases and welfare cuts, there has been a steady increase since their introduction.
There were 31 cases in 2010, 42 in 2011, 54 in 2012 and 48 in 2013.
And the borough’s foodbank, first launched in 2012, has handed out food parcels to 5,000 people since it opened its doors in May 2012.
In total, the charity says food parcels it has distributed weigh in at 40,000kg. Health professionals working in the borough, meanwhile, say they are continuing to offer services to combat what is a growing problem.
Liz Gaulton, director of public health for St Helens Council, said: “Malnutrition is an important public health problem affecting an estimated three million people in the UK - but more common among frail, elderly people.
“The most common signs are unexplained and unintentional weight loss. Malnutrition can be caused by a variety of medical and mental health
conditions - such as depression or dementia - or physical difficulties in eating.
“Anyone who is concerned about loss of appetite or malnutrition should visit their GP. Overnutrition is more common than undernutrition and leads to people becoming overweight and obese.”
And Diane Coysh, Health Improvement Specialist from The Health Improvement Team in St Helens which is run by Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Trust, said a number of initiatives were currently in place to help people struggling.
She said: “The Health Improvement Team in St Helens, which is run by Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Trust, provides a range of free help and support for local people to lead healthier lifestyles.
“Through our local team people can gain access to the Health Trainer service. Health Trainers provide practical support on a one to one basis to help people develop a personal health plan that is right for them whether that is to eat healthier, get more active, reduce alcohol intake or cut down on smoking.
“Health trainers are local people who can help to motivate and encourage people to stick to their health goals in a variety of settings, providing useful tips on nutrition, diet and exercise.
“We also provide support on courses such as Fresh Start and the team works closely with community dieticians from 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and specialist services run by St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to offer additional specialist support to anyone who needs it.”