“Today our NHS faces unprecedented challenges. And some big choices if we are to offer the kind of care we must to an ageing population. One in four of the population has a long-term condition – many of them older people. Within the next few years, 3 million people will have not one, not two, but three long-term conditions. By 2020, the number of people with dementia alone will exceed one million.
We cannot treat chronic conditions on this scale with the systems, responsibilities and incentives we currently have in place. Too often care is reactive and disjointed, with mistakes caused as a result and in a way that endangers patient safety. Too rarely are our vulnerable older citizens looked after with a joined up care plan that pre-empts problems before they arise.
Inevitably, post-Francis, the focus has been on hospital care. But today I will argue that improving primary and community care is equally important – and perhaps the more urgent priority, because it is from this that so much else follows.
But mine is an optimistic argument. I believe that every patient is the only patient. And I will say that strengthening personal relationships in modern care holds the key to many of the challenges we face if we are to look after our growing elderly population with dignity and respect.”
OPAAL too believes this, our volunteer cancer support advocates are wholly person centered, offering a highly personalised approach to supporting those who find themselves without a voice to speak up for themselves. Advocates take time to build a trusting one to one relationship with the older people they support, gaining their confidence enabling them to ensure it is the patient voice that is placed at the centre of decision making regarding choice of treatment and care.
Jeremy Hunt says that when a vulnerable older patient needing follow-up and ongoing support leaves hospital, who is the accountable clinician? As a member of the public he would like that to be his GP. He recognises that one person personally providing every element of care for a vulnerable parent or grandparent is not achieveable. Clearly, there will often be important roles for geriatricians, district nurses, social workers and others. Advocates are no doubt among those others her refers to.
OPAAL and her partners would like GP’s and their health care colleagues to make much better use of the local and highly personalised support independent advocates can offer, many of whom are themselves older people with experience of many of the conditions older people face, including cancer.
The full speech can be accessed on the department of health website https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/primary-care-and-the-modern-family-doctor
Cancer is the toughest fight most of us will ever face. And the feelings of loneliness and isolation that so many people experience make it even harder. Now, more than ever, we need people like you to join our team and get involved.
No one should face cancer alone. And with your support no one will. Call 0300 1000 200 or visit macmillan.org.uk/getinvolved or if you live in one of our Cancer Older People Advocacy support pilot areas please contact the people listed on the right of this page.