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'Older people aren't to blame for NHS problems'

  • Comments (40)

The Telegraph’s website the other day carried the headline “Minister: NHS will collapse if elderly bed-blocking continues”.

The story itself was a reasonable discussion about the need for better integration of health and social care to ease pressure on hospitals and ease the crisis in A&E, but the headline implied older people were to blame for all problems in the NHS. It conjured up images of stubborn older people refusing to give up hospital beds they no longer need, selfishly forcing younger people to wait for urgently needed care.

My 85-year-old mum recently spent two weeks in hospital, and the nursing care she received was faultless – every one of the 6Cs shone through in all the nurses on her ward. Nevertheless, the experience was distressing and confusing and all she wanted was to go home. And that’s exactly how most hospital patients feel, whatever their age.

The casually insulting tone of The Telegraph’s headline reminded me what a shame it is that the government has not accepted Robert Francis QC’s recommendation to create a new older person’s nurse specialty. These nurses could have expert knowledge of the ageing process and age-related conditions, and an understanding of the particular needs that ageing brings.

Older people’s nurses could help non-specialist colleagues across multiple wards or teams, and take a lead in caring for patients with particularly complex needs. And like cancer nurse specialists, they could smooth their patients’ path through health and social care, chasing test results, co-ordinating discharge plans, and ensuring all relevant professionals, family members and carers are involved and informed as appropriate.

I hope that when it makes its more considered response to the Francis report later this year the government will announce that it will, after all, create an older people’s nurse qualification with registered status. These nurses could do much to improve the experiences of older patients, and may also help to reduce the pressure on hospitals by reducing inappropriate A&E attendance and speeding up discharge by coordinating all care providers. Maybe they could also teach lazy headline writers that older people aren’t to blame for NHS problems – in fact they have spent a lifetime paying for it.

  • Comments (40)

Readers' comments (40)

  • Anonymous

    I don't think this article suggests elderly people are to blame, why does everyone always have to suggest someone is to blame?

    There are many people of all ages in hospital who no longer require an acute hospital bed, this is due to many factors which we are all well aware of and really don't need to be discussed again on this site.

    The trouble is that the headline is true isn't it, there are not enough beds and the public are being put at risk.

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  • Anonymous

    blame the elderly, the nurses, the patients, the GPs, the managers, the government, the DH, the CEO, the beds, the hospitals, the media, the organisational and regulatory bodies. who is next on the list? can't be that many left to go. maybe once this process is finished with no stones left unturned, all the problems have been investigated and identified, recommendations have been made and the reports filed away to gather dust, perhaps we can work towards making some active and positive changes?

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 27-May-2013 12:40 pm

    How?

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 27-May-2013 3:38 pm

    didn't the Francis Report provide any realisable recommendations?

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 27-May-2013 12:40 pm

    couldn't have put it better myself.

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  • Anonymous

    the solution is ...........................? don't know, that's the solution.

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  • Anonymous

    please put me out of my misery now...........goodness me, there won't even be an nhs (not as we know it now) when I retire and I've been paying into the 'system' for the past 40 years.

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  • Anonymous

    Excellent point Ann! Careless headlines carry a lot of power and influence public perception of the healthcare system. I agree with comments that the article wasn't directly saying elderly persons are deliberately bed-blocking but the implication is there, which can be harmful.

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  • Anonymous

    Anonymous | 27-May-2013 5:36 pm

    Apparently not, as none of them are being realised.

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  • Anonymous

    those who are able should leave the UK when the retire. there is no future for them in Britain where they are no longer welcome, as they are considered a drain on the economy, and they won't be looked after or their wishes needs respected when they need professional care.

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