Should primary health care services be specifically designed for older people?

Indicator 40 of the Madrid indicators considers that they should.

We discuss Indicator 40 and the Madrid indicators on the OAG website – essentially, Indicator 40 says that primary health services should:

  • employ staff who have expertise to care for older people;
  • be accessible to older people; and
  • be culturally appropriate.

As part of my work on the Madrid indicators, I’ve been collecting newspaper articles about the ageing population since November 2012. By far and away, the largest number of articles has been about health and disability issues. A few of these articles discuss the accessibility and quality of health services provided to older people.

One article discusses South Canterbury District Health Board’s plans to establish a centre of excellence for older people – the DHB aims to improve health services and make them more user-friendly for older people. The DHB has also been trialling Lifetime Health DiaryTM with a group of at-risk elderly clients.

An article in the NZ Doctor magazine reported some results from a trial involving more than 3500 people aged 75+ from 60 general practices. Patients at high risk of developing health problems were referred to their local geriatric services for assessment and recommendations. Overall, the high-risk group was more likely to enter residential care than the control group. Other than that, the difference in outcomes between the groups was slight, showing that it can be complex and difficult to improve results.

Other articles, such as one from Franklin, discuss how local health professionals are working with seniors' groups (Nurses share expertise, page 5) to better meet the needs of older people.

What do you think of indicator 40? Is it relevant to New Zealand? Or is it more important to focus on other matters?