Interprofessional Learning in Care of Older People: more than the sum of its parts!

Sarah De Biase, AGILE Chair (2019-2021) is a physiotherapist specialising in the care of older people with more than 16 years NHS experience working in acute, community and mental health NHS services for older people. Sarah is currently Chair of AGILE (Association of Physiotherapists working with Older Adults – a professional network affiliated with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy). She was involved in a national quality improvement programme aimed at improving systems of care for older people living with frailty through early identification, risk stratification and targeted care and support to improve the health and well-being of older people and enable them to live independently for longer. Sarah’s current role is as Allied Health Professional Lead for Older People’s Mental Health Services at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust and she also works as an Improvement Associate with the Yorkshire and Humber Improvement Academy. She tweets @sarahdebiase

AGILE is the professional network for chartered physiotherapists and valued associates who have chosen to become specialists in the care and support of older people. As the current Chair of AGILE, I have willingly and wholeheartedly taken the opportunity to build on the legacy of my predecessors to continue partnership working with the British Geriatrics Society in the delivery of their bi-annual conference. To have an instrumental role in providing the opportunity for physiotherapists to come together to learn, network, share perspectives and debate with other professionals who are equally passionate about improving how we care for older people and the most vulnerable in our society, is a privilege.

Much of the experience I bring to AGILE comes from the many open and honest professional relationships I have had the pleasure and sometimes challenge, of having with geriatricians, doctors, academics and other health and care professionals. I could not advocate for holistic person-centred care and comprehensive geriatric assessment as a key framework for high-quality care for older people had I not been willing to admit when I did not know something; or had I not been willing to listen to and understand the views, knowledge and insights being shared by others. It is essential that healthcare professionals not only listen and learn with each other, but that we mutually respect each other’s contribution in the provision of integrated individually-tailored and responsive care for older people. Just to add: it would be meaningless to continue without placing the older person and their loved ones/carers at the centre of my learning. The meaningful involvement of people with lived experience, offers a sense of purpose and control to our patients and enhances outcomes for us, as clinicians.

AGILE must lead the way and shout about the extent and real value of our profession in older people’s care. An AGILE strand within the BGS Spring Meeting in Manchester on 2nd April provides a forum for AGILE to further highlight the diversity of the physiotherapy offer. It enables us to demonstrate our adaptability and willingness to develop ourselves within our roles in response to the increasing complexity and prevalence of frailty and multimorbidity. I am thrilled to be able to introduce the AGILE session speakers at the meeting in April and I know they will bring to the fore the dynamic nature of physiotherapeutic care of older people. They will discuss and debate our role in the delivery of comprehensive geriatric assessment across the older person’s care pathway and the need for continuous improvement in how we design and deliver falls prevention rehabilitation (for example, by incorporating dual tasking training and vestibular rehabilitation). They will also be raising awareness among colleagues that strength and balance training is not always ‘sufficient’ to prevent falls and offset frailty and they will emphasise the need to better integrate physical and mental health.

We are only as good as the sum of our parts – person-centred care for older people with complex needs is not the task of physiotherapists or indeed any profession alone. We cannot continuously improve the care we offer without connections to the multidisciplinary professions and to the clinical academics who are bringing research with older people to the frontline. The BGS Spring Meeting provides AGILE and its members an opportunity to showcase the critical role physiotherapists play in contributing to older people’s re-ablement and recovery, making it explicit that partnership working and interdisciplinary learning is vital to the provision of high-quality and safe care for older people.

Finally, I hope you will be encouraged to read the upcoming blogs from the AGILE session speakers. AGILE committee members and I will see you there….

Register for the BGS Spring Meeting, 1-3 April in Manchester.


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