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.