The healthcare system is “fragmented” and “failing” older patients, a new report from the British Medical Association (BMA) has found.
The report, Growing Older in the UK, warns that increasing pressure from an ageing population with more complex needs is leaving the healthcare system unable to cope.
The BMA estimates that four in 10 people aged over 65 years old and seven in 10 over 85 years olds have a long-term illness.
Meanwhile, out of 16 million adults admitted to hospital in England in 2014/15, 47% were aged over 65.
Professor Parveen Kumar, BMA board of science chair, said “far more” needs to be done to ensure greater integration between health and social care services and help these services cope with the needs of older patients.
She said: “In particular, we must tackle the under-diagnosis and under-treatment of mental health conditions in older adults, to make sure that their mental health is treated as importantly as their physical health.”
The BMA estimates in their report that only a small proportion of older people with depression seek treatment.
Research suggests that, although between 20% and 40% of older people show signs of depression; only around 8% consult a GP.
The report says: “GPs have a unique role in coordinating the care of older adults with physical and mental health problems: continuity of care and advance care planning are two areas that are key to providing better care.
“Resources and investment will need to reflect the key roles of general practice, the need for rapid supported discharge from hospital, and for responsive integrated community services.”
The report also recommends more attention be paid to carers, of which there are 6.5 million in the UK.
To replace this unpaid workforce would cost £132 billion per year, which equates to a second NHS.
Kumar added: “Caring is something that most people do, but which they are not prepared or trained for, and which can have a significant impact on carer’s lives in terms of work, health, income, family and other relationships.
“We must ensure there is a focus on a carer friendly health services which supports carers not only to look after their loved one, but to look after their own health and wellbeing as well.
“With demand on health and social care services increasing, the government must outline long-term solutions that provide the security that older people need and deserve.”
The report follows warnings from the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust that vulnerable, older people in England are being left to fend for themselves because government-funded care is being scaled back, with spending on care by councils falling by 25% between 2010 and 2015.