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About the BGS

The British Geriatrics Society is the professional body of specialist doctors, nurses, therapists and other professionals concerned with the health care of older people in the United Kingdom.

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BGS Senior officer vacancy

Expressions of interest are invited for the post of Deputy Meetings Secretary (deadline: midnight, 1 September). Click here for job description and instructions on applying.

Age & Ageing Journal

Age and Ageing  is the British Geriatrics Society’s international scientific journal. It publishes refereed original articles and commissioned reviews on geriatric medicine and gerontology.

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Vacancy: DGM Question writing group

The BGS and RCP (London) is seeking clinicians with an interest in geriatric medicine to join the question writing group for the diploma in geriatric medicine.

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Millions of older people have an 'urgent' dental problem, warn dentists

Reported in Homecare.co.uk (16 August 2017): At least 1.8 million people aged 65 and over across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have an urgent dental condition, which could rise by more than 50 per cent by 2040, new research suggests.

In a report published by The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, dentists have raised concerns about the impact conditions such as dental pain, oral sepsis and extensive tooth decay are having on older people's quality of life.

The Faculty is calling for health and social care professionals to receive training in oral health, and for regulators to make standards of oral care part of their assessments of hospitals and care homes.

Professor Michael Escudier, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said: "Many of us know what it’s like to have excruciating tooth or gum pain. It puts you off your food and makes it difficult to do daily tasks. For older people, the effects are even worse. It can be very isolating, making people reluctant to socialise with friends and family, and will have a significant impact on their quality of life.

"As well as causing pain and making it difficult to speak, eat and take medication, poor oral health is linked to conditions in older people such as malnutrition and aspiration pneumonia.

"We are letting older people down at a time when they need the most help by not having a joined-up strategy for improving access to dental services for older people."

Andrew Kaye, head of policy at Independent Age, said: "Maintaining good oral health is a crucial part of any older person’s overall health and wellbeing and there should be no reason why it gets treated as anything other than a priority.

"The finding that 1.8 million older people have an urgent dental problem is truly shocking. There needs to be a significant step-change in the way health and care services view oral health. This is partly about helping individuals who rely on dentures, but there need to be other improvements too.

"With such large growth in the numbers of older people needing dental services, we need to see better preventative advice on maintaining oral health, and strong regulation of hospitals and care homes to ensure that standards on oral health are being complied with and adhered to."

For more information on the NICE guidance on oral healthcare visit: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng48

Local government seen as an obstacle to national planning for social care

Reported in Careinfo.org (17 August 2017): Social care needs to become part of the ‘national infrastructure’ on a footing similar to that of the National Health Service, with a reduction in the role of local authorities, according to Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green.

Interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s John Humphrys on the Today programme in the wake of a report published in the Lancet which says an extra 71,000 care home places will be needed over the coming eight years, Prof. Green said swift action was needed with planning for the next 20 to 30 years rather than focusing on a five-year timeframe dictated by the electoral cycle.

“What we need is the Government to see social care as part of national infrastructure,” said Prof. Green.

“If we want to have uniformity across the country, with everybody having the same opportunities. we’ve got to have a national policy. At the moment, what we’ve got is local authorities paying different levels for care, and some of them are totally unsustainable. That means care homes will only be developed in areas where there is proper access to funding, and because this is seen as a local rather than a national issue, we are getting a very sporadic pattern of development.”

John Humphrys suggested that responsibility needed to be removed from local authorities because different local authorities had different priorities.

“Yes indeed,” Prof. Green replied. “We need clear, national long term planning and this cannot be left to local authorities; we have seen local authority budgets squeezed year on and that is producing differential patterns of development across the country.”

Young and old come together to help dispel dementia myths

Reported in the Eastern Daily Press (16 August 2017):  Schoolchildren visited residents at a care home as part of an inter-generational project aimed at dispelling the myths and stigma associated with dementia.

A class of 30 eight and nine-year-olds from St Peter and St Paul Primary School visited Hartismere Place care home in Eye, near Diss, as part of the Archie Project – an initiative set-up by the charity Reminiscence Learning and introduced by Care UK at the home.

The pupils took time throughout the afternoon to work with residents on arts and crafts projects and talk about what life had been like when those living at the care home were at school.

The afternoon concluded with the children performing an entertaining rap, which put a smile on everyone’s faces.

The Archie Project is a dementia awareness programme linking schools and care homes together.

Over 40s should be aware of how to reduce dementia risk early on, say charities

Reported in Care Appointments (15 August 2017): People aged 40 and over should be advised on how they can take steps to reduce their risk of dementia, experts have said.

The benefits of stopping smoking, being physically active, eating healthily, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol, "connecting with people" and keeping mentally active should be highlighted in the NHS Health Check - sometimes referred to as a midlife MOT, the nation's leading dementia charities have said.

Currently the dementia element of the NHS Health Check programme is delivered to people over 65, where they will have a conversation about the signs and symptoms of dementia. But Alzheimer's Research UK and the Alzheimer's Society are calling for the check - which is offered to adults in England aged 40 to 74 - to also include advice on how to reduce risk of dementia earlier on.

The call comes after a pilot study, conducted by the charities and Public Health England, examined dementia risk reduction messaging in NHS Health Checks for those aged 40-64.

A poll of 207 people who took part in the pilot, which focused on the message 'what's good for your heart is good for your brain', found 164 recalled the dementia messaging after their check-up.

Of the 164, 75% said they were more likely to adopt a healthy lifestyle to reduce the risk of developing dementia, while 80% said the advice would have some impact on their behaviour.

Do we really need 200,000 more care home beds?

Reported in the Guardian (16 August 2017): Do we really need almost 200,000 more care home beds over the next 20 years to support Britain’s ageing population? That’s the arresting projection of new research suggesting that the typical 65-year-old can expect to live with significant care needs for two to three years of the rest of their life. The study is one of the biggest of its kind and has been welcomed by Sir Andrew Dilnot, author of the shelved 2011 blueprint for care funding reform, as evidence that spending on older people’s care “will need to increase substantially and quickly”. But what kind of spending should that be? By simply equating care with care homes, there is a danger of shutting down debate about other forms of support for older people. We risk locking ourselves into a model too often found wanting by regulators and watchdogs. The research is not the first in recent days to make a leap from the growing numbers of older people to a need for more care home beds. Earlier this month, a property consultancy commissioned by the BBC warned that the UK was building only half the required number of new care homes, sparking headlines that up to 3,000 older people would fail to get a bed by the end of next year. The new study, by universities making up the Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies Collaboration, is based on interviews with almost 8,000 older people in Cambridgeshire, Nottingham and Newcastle upon Tyne, and a comparison of the results with those of a similar exercise in the same areas 20 years previously. It concludes that the typical 65-year-old woman can now expect to have “substantial” care needs for three years of the rest of her life and a man for 2.4 years – an increase of up to a year on findings from the 1990s. On this basis, it calculates that the number of people needing care at regular intervals or round the clock will rise by almost two-thirds by 2035.

Demand for care home places will soar by more than three quarters in less than 20 years, study shows

Reported by the Independent (16 August 2017): Demand for care home places will almost double within the next 20 years, a new study reveals, fuelling fears of a crisis that will leave thousands of vulnerable people without vital support. Almost 190,000 more people aged 65 years or older will require care by 2035 to cope with the rise in demand, marking a rise of 86 per cent, according to the paper published in The Lancet. The findings come amid mounting concerns over a creaking care system, prompting experts to urge that unless the Government acts to "urgently" meet the rising costs, elderly people could face “terrifying” consequences. The increase in life expectancy has coincided with a dramatic rise in the number of elderly people who are “highly dependent”, the authors found, with the average amount of time pensioners require substantial care needs nearly doubling between 1991 and 2011. It comes amid concerns of an impending crisis in the care sector, as residential homes struggle to cope with steadily rising costs and cuts to funding. A recent report warned that one in six care homes in the UK are showing signs they are at risk of failure.

Improving older people's health

The Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England is concerned about the significant impact that poor oral health is having on older people’s general health and quality of life. As well as causing pain and making it difficult to speak, eat and take medication, poor oral health is linked to conditions such as malnutrition and aspiration pneumonia. Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland at least 1.8 million people aged 65 and over could have an urgent dental condition such as dental pain, oral sepsis or extensive decay in untreated teeth. By 2040, this number could increase by more than 50%.

Download the full report here

There is an urgent need to improve oral healthcare for older people, and this report makes the following recommendations for doing so. Although primarily applicable to England, a number of proposals are also relevant for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

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Retirees leaving sociable workplaces may experience accelerated cognitive decline

A study published recently in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, provides new evidence that workers retiring from occupations which involve high levels of social stimulation may be at greater risk of accelerated cognitive decline in later life.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at University of Liège, in collaboration with the Universities of Bordeaux and South Florida, surveyed 1,048 individuals over the age of 65 from Bordeaux. Participants were evaluated at 2 year intervals for a period of 12 years. Psychologists’ evaluations included detailed assessments of subjects’ mental cognition, general health and information about their former occupation. Three independents raters were asked to evaluate the level of social and intellectual stimulation for each occupation. These raters then classified each of the occupations as ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’ in relation to these levels.

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Recognising and preventing delirium: A quick guide for care home managers

This quick guide from NICE and SCIE will help care home managers and their staff to recognise the symptoms of delirium and to understand what they can do to prevent it. The guide will also be useful for staff training.

The guide covers:

  • Risk factors for delirium
  • Recognising delirium
  • Preventing delirium
  • Sharing information with the person and their family

Quick guides, developed jointly by NICE and SCIE, are based on NICE guidelines and quality standards. They cover key points on social care topics that are relevant to specific audiences. This new format has been developed in response to feedback from the social care sector who report that they prefer information about improving services to be easily accessible, concise and visually appealing. The guides are available online and also as PDFs.

Visit the fully interactive web resource at Recognising and preventing delirium.

Medical school places to increase next year

Reported by the BBC (9 August 2017): An extra 500 medical school places in England have been confirmed for next year by the government.

The Department of Health announced in October it planned to add up to 1,500 more places each year - a boost of 25% on current student doctor numbers - and says it will hit that target by 2020. It is part of a plan to use UK-trained doctors to ease NHS staffing pressures. But the British Medical Association says the plan will not address the immediate shortage of medics. Training to become a doctor takes at least five years and currently about 6,000 graduate each year.

Diversity drive
The government wants many of the new training places to go to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to improve diversity in the medical profession. Medical schools will be able to bid to run some of the extra course places. Those that can demonstrate they are targeting under-represented social groups, such as poorer students, will be favoured, as will those covering regions that struggle to attract trainee medics - rural areas and costal towns, for example. The extra training places in England will ultimately mean 7,500 home-grown doctors should graduate each year. Currently, about a quarter of doctors working in the NHS trained outside the UK. There are concerns that the impact of Brexit and a global shortage of doctors could make it harder to recruit as many in the future. Some UK-trained medics are also leaving the country to work elsewhere.

Harrison Carter from the BMA said: "The students who will benefit from these new placements will take at least 10 years to train and become senior doctors so we mustn't forget this promise won't tackle the immediate shortage of doctors in the NHS which could become more acute following Brexit.

"As such, we require equal focus on retaining existing doctors in high-quality jobs which will provide more immediate relief to an overstretched medical workforce."

See also: NHS to see 'biggest ever' expansion as extra doctor training places confirmed (AOL)

'My bursary was essential': perspectives on ending healthcare training bursaries

Reported in the Guardian (1 August 2017): ‘I take a home about £12.50 an hour – getting into £50,000 of debt for that is a joke’ – palliative care nurse from the north west
I qualified in my thirties with a young family. I was lucky my husband was in work at the time and that I got an extra allowance as I had young kids. There is no way I would have been able to do nursing without the bursary – today I would just become a health care assistant instead. Even as a nurse now for many years my wage combined with my husband’s barely covers essentials. What a joke that I would consider getting into £50,0000 of debt for a job with huge responsibilities, loads of stress and terrible hours. I take home £12.50 an hour.

‘Is the sacrifice worth it?’ – occupational therapy student from London

‘Nursing students will be subsidising the NHS by working for free’ – substance misuse specialist

‘I would not encourage anyone to enter nursing today’ – health visitor from the north west

‘I am worried it will deter men from applying’ - student mental health nurse from Preston

NHS drive to recruit 21,000 mental health staff ‘not realistic’

Reported in The Times: 31 July 2017: The NHS will create 21,000 mental-health posts by 2021 in an effort to ensure that psychological conditions are treated as seriously as physical health problems. The drive will tackle a “historic imbalance” in workforce capacity, the government said. The new staff will include nurses, therapists, psychiatrists and support workers. Medical schools will be asked to treat psychology A levels as of equal merit to “pure” science subjects, in an attempt to boost recruitment of young people with an interest in mental health. Ministers have promised £1 billion of investment to provide round-the-clock care every day of the week, treating an extra million patients by 2020-21.

See also: NHS drive to recruit 21,000 mental health staff ‘not realistic’ (Telegraph); Mental health sector gives mixed response to £1.3bn plan for better services (Guardian)

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