Health Secretary Alan Johnson today (21 May 2008) said local health and social care providers needed to work more closely to build on preventative care services for older people and ensure people know to what they are entitled.
Mr Johnson acknowledged the provision of health and social care services for older people was patchy, with some areas already ahead of the game while others had a long way to go.
He said: “People are living longer and that is to be celebrated. But I want to ensure, where possible, those extra years are quality years where people have, and are aware of, basic entitlements to help them lead healthy, independent lives. Our aim must be to make quality of life stretch right to the end of life.
“We want to ensure that older people see their local services improve, and that it becomes easier for them to access and use these services.”
Mr Johnson added: “Improving services for older people should be a priority for the NHS.
The health secretary announced a package of new proposals, including: a new focus on innovative healthcare such as telecare; an expert group to help the NHS better provide services for falls, fractures and osteoporosis; a review of footcare services; and a commitment to reducing waits for hearing tests and the fitting of hearing aids.
Further detail will be announced later this year, following engagement with stakeholders and the local NHS.
Mr Johnson also called on the NHS and social care services to use the tools available to them to consult with their elderly population about what services they want commissioned in their area.
He said: “We would like local services to talk to their elderly populations – those living independently at home as much as those in residential care – to ensure the services they provide are the right ones for them.”
Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern England, said: “We strongly welcome the intention to focus on preventative health, including podiatry, as well as life-threatening conditions. Shifting the focus to prevent health problems rather than just responding to crises makes good sense for everyone.”
Paul Cann, Director of Policy for Help the Aged, said: “We are looking forward to helping the Government make sure this package delivers to help achieve real benefits to older people’s lives.”
Related story: Quarter of UK elderly sick with worry over the future