According to the NHS, only 59% of “extremely frail” older people received their annual drugs review by a GP last year. That’s only 108,507 patients aged over 65 in England who are identified as being extremely frail receiving an annual check-in 2017-18 (The Guardian).
Yet medicine reviews are crucial in managing patients. Without we put individuals at risk of falls, drug reactions and hospitalisation. Age UK reports that almost “1,000 older people a day are admitted to hospital because of falls” with every additional medicine over the first four increasing the chance of falling by 14% for over 65’s. The NHS data reports that at least 1 in 10 of hospital admissions of “frail older people” are directly attributable to mismanagement of medicine. Hospitalisation for those at risk places a huge weight on an individual’s health and in turn, increasing their risk of death.
So why is it that in England we find almost “75,000 severely frail“, older are missing out on vital medicine checks?
According to NHS guidance introduced in 2017, GPs must routinely identify older people for medicine reviews. But in 2018-19, 350 GP practices did not assess a single patient. Only 14% of registered patients aged 65 years and over received an assessment, compared with numbers in 2017-18 where 26% received an assessment. With the ageing population an ever-expanding demographic, this is yet another example of the NHS being overstretched. Despite the beginning of the five-year spending plan and an average annual rise in NHS England’s budget by 3.4%, funding is still a major issue. Latest reports from the BBC explain nearly 100,000 patients admitted to hospital were stuck on trolleys for more than 4 hours awaiting a free bed. The NHS needs additional resources to support this initiative – it cannot be down to GPs to deliver alone.
Providing different levels of care in later living to suit individual needs can help reduce strain on the NHS. Savills states in it’s Re: Imagining Retail publication that, “age-appropriate housing with care can reduce GP visits by 50% and overall NHS spend by 40%.”. Enhancing health services in later living communities increases access to care and support at home, and will not only improve the health of individuals but can also reduce the need for unnecessary hospital visits and admissions. Providing a safe and caring environment for people to return home from hospital would also help to release beds to those with more acute needs, reducing demand on health and social care services. It is essential that we recognise the key role that housing with care can have socially and economically and begin to strengthen the partnership between health and social care to improve the way we age in the UK.