The Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2023, Health in an Ageing Society, calls for a focus to maximise the independence of those in older age and minimise the time in ill health between reaching old age and the end of life.
The report, which details a rise of multimorbidity in older demographics, sets out recommendations including the need for systematic planning from the NHS social care, central and local government based on where the population will age in the future.
England CMO Professor Chris Whitty outlines how we can maintain older people’s independence through reducing disease to prevent, delay and minimise disability and frailty, and how we can change the environment so that people can maintain their independence longer.
Dr Sarah Clarke, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said:
“We welcome the Chief Medical Officer’s new report in recognising the complex and differing health needs of older people across the nation. The report rightly highlights the role that social and economic factors play in the diverse rates of biological ageing seen across the country and, more specifically, the detrimental role that factors such as poor transport links and insufficient infrastructure have on health.
“We too welcome the report in highlighting the increasing multi-morbidity seen within older demographics today. With an increasing number of people with multiple long-term conditions, generalist skills are key, as are close working links with primary, community care and the voluntary sector. It is vital that specialists are supported to feel confident in their generalist skills to provide joined-up care for these patients.
“It is clear that where people live, their access to healthcare, and their local infrastructure all impact their health and wellbeing. Such conditions fluctuate throughout the country and so we therefore agree with the report’s recommendation that policy, guidance and medical practice must be able to recognise and adapt to the local demand. However, as the report also says, we must take a preventative approach to tackling socially-determined ill health in the first place, thereby alleviating pressures on the health service later down the line and improving the quality of life in old age.
“As the founder of Inequalities in Health Alliance, the RCP recognises the wide range of social determinants, such as smoking, air pollution, and lack of access to green spaces, which can negatively impact health and wellbeing. The evidence outlined in the CMO’s report supports our call for a cross-government strategy which considers the role of every government department and every available policy lever in tackling health disparities."