Primary health care for older people: progress towards an integrated strategy?
The importance of providing integrated, holistic and cohesive primary care for older people has been increasingly emphasized in recent policy initiatives and directives in the UK. These have sometimes proved to be elusive goals, however, as an ageing population and rapidly changing health care environment have increased the pressures on the primary care team to keep pace with the growing level of need. As primary care faces a new set of challenges presented by the development of Primary Care Groups (PCGs), opportunities may be found to address older people’s health needs in a more coordinated way. In South Buckinghamshire, a multi-agency group, Health for All (HFA), has been keen to develop collaborative and inter-agency working in older peoples’ services and commissioned an evaluation to inform their work. This paper focuses on some of the key findings from the evaluation with reference to primary care. The purpose of the evaluation was to provide a snapshot of service provision for older people, identifying the level of access, availability of services and areas of unmet need. Twelve user groups were consulted and interviews held with 58 service representatives from health and social services agencies in the statutory and voluntary sectors. Primary care was considered in the wider context of service provision and key issues from the perspectives of providers and users were identified. A number of problems specific to primary care were identified which echo experiences in other parts of the country. However, also identified were common issues across a wide range of service provision, suggesting the need for coordinated strategies and more effective user participation. The HFA group is using the recommendations of the evaluation to assist in a priority setting exercise, which will inform the development of a strategy for older people in South Buckinghamshire.