26 March 2018
NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Older People and Person Centred Integrated Care previews a series of regional events on frailty care:
In its 70th year, the NHS has been challenged by the busiest of times yet witnessed for health and social care systems.
Our shared values put people at the heart of everything we do and there is much going on to ensure we keep pace with unprecedented care system demands. My own ambition is that everyone will know how to recognise when a person exhibits frailty, and know what to do next to help maintain their long term wellbeing.
Oddly perhaps, frailty may seem like a new entrant into mainstream innovative healthcare. Thinking back just a few years the term was not particularly widely used, except possibly to identify an older person gradually but otherwise inexplicably nearing the end of their life.
In a little under two years all of that has now changed dramatically. This especially problematic long term condition is rapidly becoming everyone’s business.
While some may struggle with definitions, I suggest that this can be unnecessarily distracting. By concentrating instead on identifying the needs of individuals, we can all learn how to spot a person whose capacity to deal with stressor events such as acute illness or physical accidents is declining. This is important because when severe, frailty significantly increases personal annual risk of requiring urgent health care, increased social support or reaching end of life.
While occurring alongside human ageing, not everyone develops frailty and it is not solely confined to older people. Modelling work led by NHS England using the Kent Integrated Data set estimates that 20 per cent of the population aged 90 and above remain fit and are therefore likely to be fortunate in ageing well. Conversely this work also suggests that just over 25 per cent people aged 65 to 69 are living with mild frailty in England.
Supporting individuals to age well by preventing frailty where possible is now a key priority.
Of equal importance is to ensure that everyone is supported to be actively involved in planning their future care as they age. Doing this requires proactive identification of those vulnerable to an unanticipated decline in health through to the end of life.
To tackle this, in 2017 the NHS in England became the first health system in the world to commence systematic identification of frailty in General Practice within the whole population of older people. This approach permits population segmentation to proactively identify those with the greatest needs, to target and plan their care and support in ways which prioritises what matters most to them. This is about finding those people who are at risk of unwarranted poor outcomes ahead of the event. It’s something we can all get around and locally work on together to make best use of our systems and community assets.
This is not just about meeting the needs of older people now, important as that is. It is also about ensuring that all of our communities are invested in people ageing well to protect them from the onset and effects of frailty, ensuring that as many as possible remain fit and healthy throughout their adult life.
To be sure, this is not a minor undertaking, it is complex and requires effort, planning and coordination. In our favour we have a healthcare system we are rightly proud of in its ability to adapt and innovate. I am confident that we can all rise to this challenge and seize the opportunity to provoke a revolution in the way we deliver health and social care both now and for future generations.
This is where the NHS England regional events come in. Last year we hosted the 3rd National Frailty Conference in Leeds. It was hugely successful and oversubscribed, so we have therefore been working hard with regional teams to bring together stakeholders and facilitate a shared understanding of the value of working together. They will share best practice examples which are working in the reality of the current health and care system. Most important of all, they will look at how participants can take action after the events to implement high impact improvements.
So, if you want to contribute to supporting your community in ageing well while improving the quality of life and wellbeing for people living with frailty, register for an event today.
They will be hosted in following areas, if you would like to find out more please contact the relevant person from your region. All details are in the downloadable PDF.