Katie Walkin is a Business Manager in the long-term conditions team atNHS England. Katie recently joined Age UK on a short-term secondment, bringing her experience and insights from working with the NHS to Age UK’s health policy programme. In this blog, Katie writes about her experiences in producing two editions of a ‘Practical Guide to Healthy Ageing’.
Being able to stay healthy in later life is a crucial issue for all of us. We know that older people often do not feel supported to look after their own health, particularly people with multiple long term conditions, including frailty. This has a detrimental impact on their quality of life and health outcomes.
NHS England recognised there were lots of very good detailed individual guides to support older people look after their health, but there wasn’t always a single place for people to go. Improving older people’s care is increasingly a priority for the NHS, so my team set out to produce such a guide, working with the National Clinical Director for Frailtyand Age UK.
We set out to produce a readable and practical guide that helped people to stay physically and mentally well by providing hints and tips on how to keep fit and independent. It recognised, as we all should, that there is always something we can do to improve our health and wellbeing. For older people who may be starting to find things more difficult to do, it is particularly important to take active steps to slow down or reverse some of the health challenges we are all likely to face. Continue reading “Guest blog: A practical guide to healthy ageing”
In health care, the word ‘frailty’ carries a lot of baggage. In its most positive sense, it is a phrase used by older people’s specialists to describe a particular state of health, usually characterised by multiple or complex physical and mental health and social needs.
This can then be a gateway to proactive care and support joined-up around the individual.
At the less positive end, it is a shorthand for older people in later old age, with multiple long-term conditions that are almost too difficult to manage. In this case the so-called ‘frail elderly’ may be recognised for having high needs but thought of as almost beyond help and given little support.
The timing, and the timeline, is very deliberate: this is NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, setting his stall for next year’s general election.
Whichever party (or parties) form/s the next government will have to decide whether they take this vision on. And whether they are willing to pay for it.
This is a crucial point because Stevens has addressed the enduring taboo of money. Politicians are largely in a state of denial about the funding crisis facing the NHS, forecasted to be short by about £30 billion by 2020/21.
That’s just under a third of the annual budget of the NHS. Stevens is clear: if you want the NHS to continue providing a universal health care service, free at the point of delivery, you cannot escape the fact that more money will need to be found.
For a pre-election period, where more spending, even on the NHS, is avoided like the plague by political parties, this is the very definition of throwing down the gauntlet.