The future of elderly care: the health and social care leadership challenge of the 21st century?

13 Jun 2017

The future of elderly care: the health and social care leadership challenge of the 21st century?

Chris Stanford, Adviser to the Healthcare Practice at Odgers Berndtson, has been analysing the challenge posed in the UK and internationally by the worldwide ageing population.

One could be forgiven for thinking that healthcare provision in the developed world has never been so good. Advances in medical research and drug discovery, diagnostics, genomics and DNA sequencing, immunotherapeutic treatments, medical and health technology, and health promotion have all inevitably led to an increased life expectancy. So far, so good, but the simple fact is that if you live longer you are more prone to develop one or more chronic diseases or mental health issues, so your extended final years may not be lived happily, peacefully or indeed consciously and knowingly.

There is now ample evidence that increased longevity, leading to much larger percentages of elderly people living with multiple chronic and long-term conditions, will mean ever increasing financial and care demands on already over pressurized health systems, globally. It is estimated that by 2030 the number of over 65s will increase by 75% across Europe – in England one in five people will be over 65. Already 40% of the NHS budget is spent on the elderly, and over 50% of local government social care funding is spent on people over 65

The financial implications of this are clear. Whatever model of healthcare provision and funding is in place, it is unarguable that the demands on the At Home, Care Home and Secondary Care sectors will soon become untenable and unaffordable unless new strategies are rapidly put in place for elderly care, covering funding (both for hospital, care home and at home residency), medical research, drug development, medical and nursing manpower, health technology, training and general management. 

The future challenge is clear, but how can the challenge be met?

A new and drastic strategy is needed to meet the demanding health and care needs of this ever increasing sector of the global population.

Chris suggests a number of areas that require urgent attention including but not limited to the need for:

  • the more coherent and cohesive treatment of the elderly through integrated care models;
  • a major push to care for the elderly at home and in the community for as long as possible;
  • the development of a range of funding models – an area where the financial services sector could really assist with innovations;
  • and importantly from a leadership perspective, making the care of the elderly an exciting, rewarding and attractive area to work, with major recruitment drives, backed by improved training and education, both of healthcare professionals, managers and leaders.

A full thought paper on this subject area shall be available shortly from Odgers Berndtson.