Elderly care plan shows how costs can be cut

A PROJECT supporting Gwent’s frail elderly population is being highlighted as a key example of programmes that can help health and social care services survive in a tougher financial climate.

Assembly health minister Edwina Hart is warning that health and social care services in Wales are well placed to meet future financial challenges, but only by working together more effectively.

Among the NHS/local authority schemes across Wales Ms Hart has visited in recent weeks is the Gwent Frailty Project, which aims to enable dependent or vulnerable people, or those with chronic conditions, to maintain their independence.

It works by co-ordinating health and social care experts, with the patient at its centre, focusing on treatment in or close to home, to avoid hospital admission.

Ms Hart said the NHS in Wales saved around £850 million in the last four years, and warned that between £1.1 billion and £1.9 billion may have to be saved over the next five years because of the financial squeeze.

The Gwent Frailty Project is expanding across the area, developing an intensive hospital-at-home system delivered by multi-skilled community teams.

Such an approach in Torfaen has prevented hundreds of hospital admissions in the last three years.

Frail older people are the biggest group to be supported through the programme. Ms Hart said caring for a rapidly increasing elderly population is the biggest challenge facing the NHS and local government.

“By 2031 people aged 60-75 will have increased by a quarter and those over 75, by 75 per cent,” she said.

“We absolutely want to avoid people getting stuck in beds when they should never have been admitted in the first place, and we don’t want to see people discharged without proper recovery and then becoming significantly greater social care costs than they might otherwise have been.”