Key to improving the lives of elderly people across Tayside will be enhanced community services, led by the region’s health and social care partnerships.
They bring together multi-disciplinary teams to make the early interventions that Dr Cesar Rodriguez believes are so important.
As part of that system, NHS Tayside has been grouping individuals from a wide range of backgrounds to supporting patients – and the elderly in particular – in their homes and communities.
NHS Tayside chief executive Lesley McLay said the need for such care had become increasingly obvious.
“Twenty years ago, when I was in a clinical role, when you went on to the wards the majority of patients were in their mid-fifties, their sixties, up to 65.
“Now people with an acute illness are coming into hospital for the first time in their eighties.
“They have long-term conditions but they have managed to successfully live and then something happens that tips them over the edge.
“When they come into hospital that can often be the catalyst for other problems with their health.”
To address that, a community approach to care was piloted in Dundee and Monifieth, with the results so successful that region-wide adoption is under way.
“What we did was to bring together a rich skill mix, comprising additional general practice support, old age psychiatry, medicine for the elderly, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work and the voluntary sector,” said Ms McLay.
“The aim was to ensure early detection of people who might be going into an acute health situation, or people who might just be more at risk of falls or further ill health that often results in an unscheduled care admission.
“We tested the team on four practices, targeting them because they had a lot of unscheduled admissions, probably because of their older population.
“What we demonstrated for those practices was that we were able to reduce the number of emergency admissions.
“For those who did require admission, the support of the team in the community meant that we were able to reduce their length of stay.
“That told us that we were doing something different – that it was multi-agency approach in the community making the difference.
“Sometimes it was things like someone falling and managing that, but in other cases it was about putting in support, befriending services, alarm systems. Things that are not always medical or clinical.
“That was a test. It took place maybe two to three years ago and we made a decision as part of our older people’s strategy to roll that out across Tayside.
“We are still rolling this out across the whole area,” continued Ms McLay.
“We have 61 GP practices across the region and Perthshire is probably the area where we need to be more active.
“We need to move into rural areas.”