Welcome to our new series on NHS Hot Topics 2017! These blogs will cover one recent piece of medical news from this year in detail.
An ageing population is a population in which the median age is increasing due to rising life expectancy. This trend is common amongst more economically developed countries. An ageing population can have a number of consequences both in terms of the clinical management of complex chronic diseases and co-morbid burden, but also a range of socioeconomic issues.
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Know some basic statistics on the ageing population so you can go prepared to your interview. Know the population of the UK and the % which are over 60. Data from 2016 shows that approximately 18% of the population in the UK were over 65. The King’s Fund reports that over 15 million people in the UK have a chronic condition. Research the most common chronic conditions amongst the elderly and why the management is so complex. For example, diabetes has a number of complications which manifest as you grow older.
An ageing population isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can talk about how well medicine has developed and technology has progressed in allowing early diagnosis and therapeutics have enabled us to manage chronic conditions much better. For example, HIV was once a terminal diagnosis. In the modern world, HIV can be managed with drugs which allow the person affected to leave a full and active life.
Know about the different types of care outside of primary and secondary care. More importantly, be able to show an understanding as to how these areas of care meet with primary and secondary care. There is much need for improvement in integrating these areas of care. For example, if an elderly patient is admitted to A&E after a fall, it can sometimes be days or weeks until she is discharged. This is sometimes described as “bed blocking”. A recent news report found that bed blocking costs the Scottish NHS over £100 million per year.
Know the differences between social care and residential care. Social care is provided by the local authority and can be in the form of home visits, help with household tasks like cooking and providing mobility aids. Some local authorities also arrange elderly day centres. Residential care, as the name suggests, is sheltered accommodation for elderly patients who may not be able to live independently, but it can also be through personal choice. Residential care can be tailored to the needs of the individual.
The take-home message is that it is important for these care systems to work in cohesion with both primary and secondary care. An ageing population makes this difficult since there is a high demand but short supply of these services, and many departments facing cuts in funding.
So how do we manage the ageing population? Heart disease, diabetes, dementia is most common amongst this age group. What we can do is ensure that the generation after them are healthier when they enter the 60+ age group. Public Health campaigns educating patients on healthy lifestyle choices are a sensible suggestion. If we can make the public aware of the risk factors which can lead to poor health, we can educate them on ways to reduce the chances of them developing a risk factor and remain healthy.
Words: Hassan Ahmed
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