Number of people suffering malnutrition surges

The number of people suffering from malnutrition has surged since the start of the financial crisis and the government's austerity programme, new figures have revealed.

The Department for Health figures show there has been a 73% increase in admissions for malnutrition to English hospitals since 2008.

According to the statistics released by health minister Norman Lamb there were 5,499 admissions for malnutrition in 2012 compared to 3,161 in 2008.

People in rural areas appear to be suffering the most, with Somerset and Cornwall registering the largest number of admissions last year.

The new figures follow research released last month showing the number of people relying on food banks to survive has tripled.

Education secretary Michael Gove caused controversy earlier this year after suggesting that poor people only have themselves to blame for using food banks.

"I had the opportunity to visit a food bank in my constituency on Friday," he told the House of Commons in September.

"I appreciate that there are families who face considerable pressures. Those pressures are often the result of decisions that they have taken which mean they are not best able to manage their finances."

The Department of Health today advised people to take greater care over their diet.

"Our advice for a healthy diet is to eat the right number of calories for how active you are and to eat a wide range of foods to ensure that you’re getting a balanced diet and that your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs," a spokesperson said.

Labour accused the government of failing to take the issue seriously.

"These figures should shock ministers out of their complacency. Older people will be hit hardest and a growing number are already arriving at hospital suffering from malnutrition. They deserve better,” Labour's shadow health minister Jamie Reed said.