By Gareth Iacobucci
The health secretary has urged GPs to look carefully at how they can improve elderly care, after a Government-funded pilot showed improving care in the community could improve quality of life and reduce emergency admissions by almost a third.
Results from the Partnership for Older People project, which trialed preventative interventions for older people in 29 pilot areas, also reduced hospital bed days by almost half for older patients, who reported a greater range and awareness of available services.
Despite this, the Department admitted it was facing a tough battle to engage GPs in the project, with health secretary Andy Burnham calling for PCTs to make it easier for GPs to press ahead with PBC schemes aimed specifically at older people.
The 146 projects across England ranged from low-level services such as lunch clubs, to more formal moves such as early hospital discharge and rapid response services, and employing GPs specifically to make home visits for elderly people.
The evaluation found that overnight hospital stays were reduced by 47%, and use of A&E departments reduced by 29%.
It reported ‘considerable savings’ from the reduction in hospital emergency bed days, with £1.20 additional savings generated from every £1 spent.
The Health Secretary said he expected similar projects to be adopted around the country, to carry forward the Department’s pledge – made in the recent operating framework – to focus more on preventative services.
But while the pilot reported ‘improved relationships with health agencies and the voluntary sector’, it admitted that ‘there were ‘some difficulties in securing the help of GPs’, who were found to be ‘difficult to engage’.
However, Mr Burnham said he was optimistic GPs could be reached, as long as they were not discouraged by too much bureaucracy in PBC.
‘We are in a mindset where we just think of commissioners in the PCT, or in local Government. We can’t miss out the people who are probably in the best position to drive this more quickly than anybody – that’s GPs.
‘It points to putting a bit more oomph behind PBC. I think we should signal more clearly that things in this territory would be very much welcomed. If GPs grab hold of this, we could really see some quick wins.’
Mr Burnham said GPs should potentially examine their referral rates if they were referring particularly highly, but said it was equally important that they were given a new innovative range of services to refer older patients to.
He claimed the evaluation provided the hardest evidence yet that prevention would provide the best outcomes for patients and save money.
‘You can give more old people the chance to die at home, you can keep them out of hospital, and you can prevent falls. The savings are powerful, but the more powerful thing is the moral case for doing it.’
Government urges GPs to ‘grab hold’ of elderly care