Government to offer health check-ups for older patients at A&E

LONDON: Older patients arriving at A&E will be offered “health MoTs” to check for conditions including dementia, diabetes and heart disease.

Hospitals have been told to set up new services “at their front door” to screen frail over-65s for chronic illnesses, under a plan to prevent thousands of admissions and free up beds. It means those arriving at A&E needing treatment for falls, fractures or common infections will also be assessed for underlying illnesses straight away.

This will focus on providing treatment and medication to enable older patients to return home on the same day, so they do not have to be admitted to a ward for further checks. The NHS hopes this will reduce the “bed-blocking” that is leaving thousands of older patients stranded on wards, causing a logjam in hospitals and damaging productivity.

The same-day frailty services are being established at all A&Es in England, running ten hours a day, seven days a week. Any conditions identified will be flagged with the patient’s GP, reducing the chances of them being readmitted to hospital.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Health MoTs at the front door of A&Es for older people could be a lifeline for many, from blood pressure tests to a review of their falls history, these checks mean patients can be assessed quickly and directed to the right support for their needs.”

Nearly two thirds of those admitted to hospital are over 65, and the NHS is struggling to cope with rising demand from an ageing population. Last year there were more than 200,000 emergency hospital admissions in this age group because of falls.

“With rising demand for care, it is vital that we continue to adapt our services to meet the growing and changing needs of patients — which is why … we have asked NHS hospitals to introduce practical measures to ensure older people get the care and support they need. While some people do need to be admitted, it isn’t always the most suitable place for older patients’ needs, and they can also rapidly lose mobility while in hospital.”

As well as freeing up NHS beds, reducing the amount of time older patients spend in hospital helps to prevent them deteriorating. Hospitals are also being urged to expand schemes such as chair-based yoga and “race tracks” on wards, that keep older patients strong. Research shows muscle strength reduces by up to 10 per cent during each week in hospital, meaning some frail patients become too weak to go home.

The NHS drive to reduce admissions in over-65s was due to be announced before the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester on Wednesday amid mounting concern about the toll of doctors’ strikes on older people. Junior doctors from the British Medical Association are walking out for five days in the lead-up to the election, from June 27 to July 2, causing tens of thousands of NHS appointments to be cancelled.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, urged the BMA to call off strikes if both Labour and the Tories pledged to reopen talks within ten days of forming a new government. About 1.5 million appointments have been postponed since industrial action began in the NHS in England in December 2022. Junior doctors want a 35 per cent pay rise.