BGS News, May 2018, Northern Ireland Update

01 May 2018
Mark Roberts

Managing older people with frailty syndromes is, in common with other UK nations, rising up the wider Health and Social Care (HSC) agenda in Northern Ireland. 

During March, a ‘Redefining Frailty’ workshop was hosted by the regional Public Health Agency, with input from NI BGS members in the design and delivery of the day.  The aim is to coordinate better understanding of Frailty syndromes, to agree Frailty severity definitions and to explore options such as the electronic Frailty Index for Primary Care (which currently does not exist in Northern Ireland).  

Some modest sums have been pledged to each of the five provider HSC Trusts for pilot schemes to improve care for older adults living with Frailty syndromes, with evaluations thereafter intended to inform scale up. Pilot schemes examples may include: enhanced assessment functions in EDs, structured priority prescribing initiatives for care homes, enhancing inpatient units to be more orientated to the psycho-social needs of those in later stages of Frailty syndromes or more upstream input for those in community with mild or moderate Frailty syndromes.

Cross organisation collaborations

Our annual Joint NI BGS / Royal College of  Psychiatry meeting in January went well with good feedback and was hosted on this occasion by BGS NI. The overarching theme of talks was depression in older adults in both home and care home settings.  Our Spring BGS meeting  in May is co-hosted with AGILE – the association for chartered Physiotherapists who work with older people.  The previous collaboration on improving inactivity in older adults in hospital settings was well received by the multi-professional audience and we are hopeful that this meeting on the challenges facing older Adults with Frailty syndromes who present to Emergency Departments will also carry broad appeal and interest.
The ongoing prolonged absence since January 2017 of a functioning Assembly at Stormont has left a political vacuum, which is likely having an impact on the pace of transformation plans for moving care closer to the community, acute hospital services reform and making decisions, which in turn affects the prospect of expanding the workforce in specialties such as Geriatric Medicine (for which the case has persuasively been argued in previous independent workforce planning documents).  In part due to this, most Health and Social Care Trusts carry vacancies for Consultant posts in an environment with increasing demand for Geriatric Medical expertise in secondary care including community Geriatrics / Acute Care at home models and emerging perioperative Geriatric Medicine posts.

Transforming ageing across borders

In Autumn of 2018, NI BGS is partnering with the Irish Gerontological Society at their Annual Autumn Conference in County Cavan in September.  The theme is Transforming Ageing across Borders - with Brexit approaching this spices up the usual challenges of boundaries across primary and secondary care, inter-professional boundaries and organisational boundaries by adding a new (as yet unknown!) UK/EU boundary, particularly for older people living in border counties.  Further information on this conference is available at

Mark Roberts
Chair: BGS Northern Ireland