Caring for an ageing population - a new approach for anaesthetists

On Wednesday 9 January, Professor David Oliver, vice president, Royal College of Physicians and consultant geriatrics and acute general medicine, Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, delivered his keynote lecture: ‘Be nice to your elders – it could be you one day’ at the Association of Anaesthetists annual Winter Scientific Meeting at the QEII Centre, London.

The UK’s population is growing and ageing. By 2030, men aged 65 will live on average to 88 years and women to 91 years old.  Although this is a cause for celebration, and many people will live into older age without life limiting health problems, there will be an increase in people living with long-term chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia. This means that anaesthetists, intensivists and other healthcare professionals will need a different approach and set of skills to care for their patients in the future.

In his keynote lecture, Professor Oliver, considered the implications of caring for an ageing population, as he explains: “Future healthcare will require a far more person centred and integrated approach, keeping people well at home rather than in hospital. There will be a greater focus of joined up care between the NHS and social care and a move away from single disease healthcare to supporting patients with a variety of complex diseases and problems at the same time.

“For anaesthetists this means we need to ensure elective and emergency surgery is as safe and effective as possible for the older patient who is likely to present with a number of medical conditions alongside their surgical diagnosis. As part of a multidisciplinary and integrated medical care team our focus for the future will be to share and develop best practice across the NHS.”

Speaking about Professor Oliver’s lecture and the Winter Scientific Meeting, Dr Kathleen Ferguson, president at the Association of Anaesthetists, said: “Our Annual Winter Scientific Meeting is a great way for attendees to keep up to date with clinical and non-clinical subjects and I was very interested in Professor Oliver’s thought provoking and timely lecture. We know that one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS is the increased demands of an ageing population, not just for our patients but also for the staff on whom they depend. At the Association we are raising awareness of the issues connected to an aging population as part of our Age and the Anaesthetist campaign and we look forward to helping to shape the debate in how to develop healthcare for the future.”

Other keynote lectures delivered during the three-day conference (9-11 January 2019) included the Archie Brain Lecture: Peri-operative outcomes research in Africa from Professor Bruce Biccard, Cape Town and the Featherstone Oration: Hip fractures, challenges, solutions and looming problems from Professor Griffiths, Peterborough.

More than 800 anaesthetists and intensivists attended the series of workshops, activities and exhibitions over the three days, providing an exciting way for attendees to keep up to date on clinical and non-clinical subjects including obstetrics, airways, emergency medicine, paediatrics, new and emerging therapies, blood management, research, regulation and wellbeing.

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