Adding life to years as well as years to lives

John Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services discusses the launch of the National Service Framework for Older People in Wales

We all want to grow old, after all, the alternative is not very palatable is it?

I thought a doctor put it very well when making a presentation in saying, ‘I want to die young when I am very, very old.’

It is about adding life to years as well as years to life. It is a positive picture.

Many people today are highly active and adventurous well into older age. Eighty is the new 70, 70 the new 60, 60 the new 50.

The launch of the National Service Framework for Older People in Wales marks another important milestone in the implementation of our ground-breaking strategy for older people in Wales.

The fact that we are now living longer than ever before is surely something to celebrate. For this reason we must ensure that when older people need access to health or social care services, those services are available, of high quality and responsive to their individual needs.

The health and well-being of our older people, as well as improved access to high-quality health and social care services, are two of the key themes of the strategy for older people.

The NSF will be the main channel through which we will drive up standards for older people’s health and social care services across Wales.

A key feature of this NSF is that it has been developed with all our partners. More than 100 people were involved in the NSF group and sub groups. It has taken a lot of effort to get this far but thanks to the inputs from these people we now have an NSF for older people in Wales that was developed with older people for older people.

The NSF addresses many areas which cover primary, secondary and community care. It focuses on the prevention and treatment of strokes, falls and fractures, services for older people with mental health problems and the effective management of medicines.

In line with Designed for Life – the Assembly Government’s 10-year strategy for world-class health and social care services – the NSF sets out a vision where older people stay safe, healthy and independent, any health or social care needs are promptly identified and assessed in a holistic manner, and met where appropriate in the community. Access, when needed to hospital or other specialist services, is prompt and transition between services is co-ordinated and timely.

It also envisages that opportunities for return to full or optimum health and independence are maximised.

These principles run through all of the NSF’s standards. The standards reinforce many key messages for improving services for older people.

We want decisions about treatment and care to be made on the basis of each individual’s needs not their age. {mospagebreak}

Services provided to older people should also be person centred. In other words, the individual’s needs should drive service provision and be central to all assessments and services which an individual needs.

All people have a right to expect basic standards of care and we must ensure these are delivered for older people.

To achieve this there must be joint working between NHS, social care and voluntary groups who provide services and care to older people.

Obviously prevention is better than cure, and we want to support older people to stay safe and well for as long as possible.

But if older people need support we want to provide these services in such a way that older people and their carers are able to manage their health conditions and any associated limitations, and maintain their independence.

Intermediate care also plays a vital role – there are various examples of such services, which have been developed across Wales, and we now want to see intermediate care become available as part of mainstream services across Wales.

Although we talk about wanting to keep people out of hospital, there are obviously times when hospital is the best place for an older person to be.

We must make sure that older people in hospital receive the highest quality clinical and non-clinical care, and that their journey through the hospital system is efficient, well co-ordinated and effective.

Recent funding announcements we have made will help to support the implementation of the NSF. These have included a £76m package to support older people, disabled people and their carers, as well as a £45m increase for adult social services in 2006/7.

In addition, £41m has been allocated over three years to fund 11 extra care housing schemes for older people.

These resources demonstrate the Assembly Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting older people, and promoting their well-being and independence.

We believe that this NSF will provide a real focus and opportunity to take an integrated approach to improving services for older people in Wales.

It provides the basis for us all to strive to achieve the world- class health and social care services which older people in Wales deserve and should expect.