Medacs Healthcare

MAR 12/2014

Ageing population 'driving need for wider NHS reforms'

More jobs for home care workers could be created in future as the NHS gradually evolves its services to cope with the needs of an ageing society.

A new report from thinktank The King's Fund has highlighted the need for a "fundamental shift" in the way UK health and care systems are organised, structured and planned, recognising the fact that older demographics are starting to represent an increasingly large proportion of the overall population.

It is estimated that one in five people in England will be over the age of 65 by 2030, meaning care in future will need to be coordinated around individual needs rather than single diseases, while prevention and support for maintaining independence will become more important than treating symptoms and injuries as they arise.

The report highlighted nine key priority areas for reform, including the promotion of healthy, active ageing and an increased effort to helping people live well with simple or stable long-term conditions, as well as more complex comorbidities, dementia and frailty.

This could be achieved by improving the availability of high-quality nursing and residential care for those who need it, with a focus on delivering rapid support close to home in times of crisis. Good acute hospital care will also be essential, with effective discharge planning and post-discharge support.

Meanwhile, physiotherapists will need to be involved in rehabilitation and reablement after an acute illness or injury, while more choice, control and support should be extended to patients towards the end of their lives.

David Oliver, visiting fellow at The King's Fund, said: "The health and care systems have a long way to go to adapt to the twin challenges of an ageing population and tighter funding. Many local service leaders are transforming services for older people, but we urgently need to see their experiences spread more widely.

"Marginal change will not be enough; transformation is needed at scale and at pace."

The overall increase in the average age of the population can be attributed to rises in life expectancy, a trend that is also being seen in a number of other developed nations worldwide.

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