The frailty journey so far: where are we heading?

Professor Martin Vernon qualified in 1988 in Manchester. Following training in the North West he moved to East London to train in Geriatric Medicine where he also acquired an MA in Medical Ethics and Law from King’s College. In 2016 Martin was appointed National Clinical Director for Older People and Person Centred Integrated Care at NHS England. Here he discusses the 3rd National Frailty Conference which will be held on 28 September 2017 in Leeds. He tweets @runnermandoc 

The 19th Century term ‘watershed’ refers to a ridge of high ground separating bodies of water flowing in different directions. With this in mind I believe the 3rd National Frailty Conference in Leeds this year truly does mark a watershed moment. It will provide a valuable and timely opportunity both to reflect and add clarity to the new direction of travel we are taking with routine frailty identification and intervention for older people on a national scale. Make no mistake: bringing frailty into the mainstream is game changing.

Over the last year I have been continually impressed by the enthusiasm, ingenuity and commitment around the country focused on improving care and outcomes for our expanding and ageing population.  As a health and care system collectively we have much to celebrate from the hard work already done. Yet this is no time for complacency: mindful of the growing numbers of older people we should keep firmly focused on continuing our quality improvement journey to higher ground.

People aged over 85 represent one of the fastest growing segments of the population and soon in the UK a fifth of the population will be over the aged of 65.  The country’s health and care systems are facing considerable challenges as we strive to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

It is therefore of key importance that we continue to support our older population to stay as healthy, active and  independent as possible through the effective management of the long term conditions which accompany many of us into later life.

Prevention of unwarranted variation in frailty onset and promotion of healthy ageing are always going to be key to this, but we also have to continue to improve the quality of care for those living with established frailty. Through my role with NHS England, I’ve been delighted with the progress being made across the country which addresses prevention through active healthy ageing, improved acute frailty care in urgent and secondary care systems and enhances health care support to people living with severe frailty in care homes and towards the end of their life.  I am particularly impressed with the way in which academic and clinical communities are aligning themselves and working in partnership with social care, housing and voluntary sector to ensure that the most effective and evidence based approaches are being deployed to benefit people’s lives and communities sooner rather than later.

The conference gives us some clear thinking and networking time to consider how we focus our efforts to greatest effect. We need to use this time wisely and deploy our outputs widely therefore.

And on a final point let us use this conference to consider carefully how we talk about frailty. In my view an honest, thoughtful and open conversation with individuals, their loved ones and their communities has much to offer in ensuring that everyone understands why we are working so hard to address the issues that biomedical frailty poses to our society.

To quote Ed Sheeran: ‘the main thing that you have to remember on this journey is, just be nice to everyone and always smile!’.

Due to high levels of demand registration is now closed for this event. Please contact registrations@bgs.org.uk to be added to the waiting list. There will be no onsite registration. You can follow the event live on Twitter using the hashtag #UKFrailtyConf

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