Dr Peter Wallis, formerly consultant geriatrician – Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, was involved with the filming of a new BBC 2 Documentary Series
The department of elderly medicine at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital became aware of the BBC‘s interest in a documentary series about the care of older people following an advertisement in the British Geriatrics Society Newsletter (2012) placed by the BBC Bristol Documentary team. The intention was to produce a 3 part documentary series reflecting current issues in the health and social care of older people. Following successful discussions and with the agreement of partner organisations including social services as well as primary, community, mental health and ambulance service teams, filming took place during 2012/13. Filming was centred around the elderly care and general wards as well as the A&E department at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital and the patients with their stories were followed into community settings.
There were a number of challenges to be overcome in the making of the series. Resolving issues around consent, preservation of patient dignity and ensuring that clinical care was not compromised were of key importance. Gaining support from colleagues across the hospital, community and social care settings was also equally important to the success of the series. The BBC documentary team were, as expected, highly professional and the patient stories have been told in a sensitive and poignant way.
The series will raise awareness about important issues in relation to the care of frail and older people, including the complexities of care and the challenging decisions faced by patients and families, as well as hospital and community teams. The pressures on NHS and social care resources, problems associated with unnecessarily prolonged hospital stays and the need for coordinated and responsive services for frail older people are also highlighted in the series. The patient stories, told in a sensitive and poignant way, powerfully illustrate the impact of frailty crises on patients and their families. Themes covered in the series include:
- Frailty crises
- Balancing risk vs benefit in hospital admission for frail and /or confused older patients
- Delayed discharge owing to complex care needs
- End of life decisions
- Dementia – stresses and strains on carers
- Dementia and decision making – capacity and best interests, who decides?
- The limits of care in the community
- Availability of care facilities, especially those for older patients with mental health issues
The programme is important viewing. These scenarios are everyday occurrences for many frail and older people and of course might affect an appreciable number of us when we are older too. Hospitals and community services need to continue their drive to become more ‘frailty and dementia’ friendly. Public awareness of these issues will help to focus planning and service development for frail older people. The series is neither an exposé nor does it present a health and social care system that has all the answers. The BBC team has provided a realistic view on the health and social care of older people today. Finally and most importantly, the documentary series would not have been possible without the generous support of the participating patients and their families to whom we are most grateful.
Protecting our Parents will be on BBC 2 at 9pm on Thursday, 17 April 2014. More information is available at Heart of England NHS website.