THOUSANDS of children in Scotland have been treated for malnutrition over the past three and a half years, according to new figures.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde recorded 3895 admissions of children to an acute site for malnutrition between 2018 and 2022, with figures nearly doubling from 572 to 1000 in 2021 alone.
Obtained by The Herald using a freedom of information request, the data does not include children treated for malnutrition by GPs, which is where the majority of at-risk children would be treated for the condition.
Malnutrition occurs when a person’s diet does not include the right amount of nutrients and can result in children not gaining weight or growing at the expected rate.
It can refer to both under-nutrition and over-nutrition and can result in increased instances of illness for affected children.
According to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, individual patients may account for more than one hospital admission.
However, other health boards in Scotland have also reported children being treated for malnutrition.
NHS Lothian figures showed that 928 children were flagged as requiring dietary support between 2018 and 2022.
The health board said that all children admitted to hospital are screened for malnutrition.
While NHS Tayside reported 186 referrals to paediatric dieticians for “faltering growth” over the same period.
Public health nutritionist at the University of Glasgow, Ada Garcia, said that while not all cases of malnutrition in children are related to poverty the figures stressed the need to be vigilant.
She told the BBC: “In a population, independent of wealth, there will always be a number of children who are not growing according to the expected growth curves and standards and those cases need to be documented and monitored.
“In the UK the threshold for true poverty-associated undernutrition in childhood is very mild but it is important to be vigilant.”
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “Tackling child poverty is a national mission for this government and we are using all of the powers and resources available to us to help those struggling to make ends meet.
“We have allocated almost £3bn to a range of supports this year that will contribute to mitigating the impact of the increased cost of living on households.”
A working group is also in the process of being set up to make recommendations on a framework for the prevention of malnutrition and dehydration.