NHS Reform: Challenge and opportunity

BBC Four’s new sitcom, Getting On, takes a bleakly comic look at life on an NHS geriatric ward. But a new report this week shows that NHS hospital treatment of many older people is no laughing matter.

The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) launched its new report this week; ‘An Age Old Problem’. Its findings were disturbing, demonstrating that the NHS at present is just not equipped to deal with an ageing population. The report looked at the care given to 820 people aged over 80 from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of whom died within 30 days of having surgery. It highlighted that pain management, malnutrition and delays in receiving care were all common problems. Only 38% of the patients analysed received care that could be classed as ‘good’. 

Older people are too often receiving second-rate care, even though they are the highest users of NHS services. The lack of access to specialists in older people’s medicine is a real issue, particularly as people in later life make up such a significant portion of the hospital population. The continuing instance of malnutrition in hospitals is scandalous, and we’ve just re-launched our Hungry to be Heard campaign, calling on all hospital wards to effectively implement our seven steps to end malnutrition.

With the Health Bill expected later this month or early in December, there is a great opportunity to implement fundamental reform of our health system. We want to see a fundamental review into the way in which the NHS treats older people, looking at:

  • Ending the under-funding and under-prioritisation of services for older people
  • Reforming funding to take account of the effects of multiple conditions on people’s health and of demographic changes
  • A stronger focus on outcomes for older people’s care
  • More NHS specialists in older people’s care to cope with the demands of our ageing society

It’s clear that we face a significant challenge in improving older people’s experiences of the NHS, but we also have a great opportunity to influence the future direction of services.

2 responses to “NHS Reform: Challenge and opportunity

  1. Since the death of my mother in 2008 due to poor NHS care, I have been campaigning for greater exposure of the treatment received by the elderly when going in to hospital.
    I hope that inconjuction with the Mid Staffs enquiry the Care Quality Commission will be given the powers to bring criminal action against those who continue to provide poor treatment. Over the last few years I have given many interviews to the media in the hope that my mother’s death was not in vain. Her story was featured by the BBC on release of the NCEPOD report. I am the Chair of Trustees for Age Uk Wiltshire and will continue to fight for better care for our older population.

  2. A thoughtful post Hilary and timely with today’s social care announcement.

    Both health and social care are facing huge challenges in the coming years, with both sectors earmarked for radical reform. Central to the overall reform programme is the Government’s push towards better partnership working through joint commissioning and decision making. I know the Government hope that this will empower older people by providing more personalised services and putting in place better preventative measures, however, wouldn’t you agree that previous reform attempts have been slow, and many have claimed they haven’t gone far enough?

    Now that we are facing tough economic times, and with a growing ageing population, it is vital that both sectors work together, sharing examples of best practice, to ensure that care continues to improve – after all, we will all require these services in the future.

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