Author: Dr Christine Dobbs, Centre for Innovative Ageing, Swansea University

Day One – Tuesday 25th June

Strand – Health & Well Being

Session Two: 2.45pm – 4.15pm

Compared to the other three UK nations, Wales has the lowest healthy life expectancy, the highest incidence rate of chronic disease and the largest proportion of older people, many of whom live in rural areas. Further, the nursing staff:patient ratio is lowest for older people compared to other patient groups across the NHS and lowest in NHS Wales.

This paper presents findings from part of a larger qualitative study (N=56). Relevant here, participant groups were older people (OP) and policy-makers/-influencers (PMI: experts and lay persons) in rural and urban Wales. Employing Thematic Content Analysis (OP – Interviews), Nominal Group Technique (OP – consultation workshops), and summative consultation workshops (PMI), a major problem identified for rural elders was getting in to an appropriate hospital.

Currently, often the potential harm/distress of travelling almost outweighs the benefits of treatment, and social support networks such as loved ones’ visits are impaired severely. In contrast, one major problem for urban elders was getting out of hospital due to poor multi-agency liaison and an NHS culture of risk aversion. Common-sense solutions were proposed by the PMI groups. In particular, the NHS must adapt by acknowledging and acting on the solutions that front-line staff and the contributions that the voluntary sector can provide. However, if the Welsh Government is to proceed with its proposal to strip down hospital provision and if the NHS does not move away from overly strict risk assessment, the future for health- and social-care delivery particularly for the older population looks very bleak.

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