GPs share ideas on how care for older people can be improved

GPs share ideas on how care for older people can be improved

In May 2018, the Health Alliance brought together a group of GPs and specialist geriatricians practising in the Prince Charles Hospital (TPCH) catchment to workshop how care for frail elderly people living in their own homes or local Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs) could be improved.

Improving the health and wellbeing of frail older people is one of the focus areas for the Health Alliance. This builds on previous collaborative work across the sector, such as the five-year healthcare plan for older people, launched by Metro North Hospital and Health Service (the HHS) and Brisbane North PHN (the PHN) and other work initiated by the HHS’ focus on the Year of the Frail Older Person in 2017.

There is an agreed need for a system-wide approach to the health and wellbeing of frail older people, and the Alliance has looked at the Prince Charles Hospital catchment is a starting point for this work, owing to existing projects in this region such as the Geriatric Outreach Assessment Service. 

The workshop provided an opportunity for the 11 local GPs in attendance to discuss with hospital clinicians and representatives from the HHS, the PHN and the Health Alliance how care for older people could be improved, and how GPs could be supported more broadly in their work with this population group.

Health Alliance General Manager Professor Don Matheson said the workshop highlighted key challenges in the provision of care for residents of RACFs.

“GPs told us they have seen an increase in the complexity of healthcare needs of residents in RACFs coupled with the reduction in the Registered Nurse workforce over time,” Professor Matheson said.

“We heard that care in the RACF setting can be onerous and not well remunerated, and that sector standards don’t always encourage improvements in clinical care,” he said.

“We know that it can be difficult for GPs to access support for older people who are living in their own home, and we recognise there is a need for improved communication back to GPs after a patient has been hospitalised.”

The group workshopped potential solutions and shared experiences of what has worked at a local level. This included examples of a general practice caring for an entire RACF and sharing this responsibility between doctors, suggestions on funding arrangements for after-hours services, home visiting and telehealth, and a need to build better relationships between RACFs and the health sector to improve clinical care.

The Health Alliance, the HHS and the PHN will continue to engage around how the care of older people can be improved.

This will be the focus of the “Creating a better system for older people” session at the 2018 Metro North Health Forum. 

The session will be facilitated by Professor Don Matheson and the Health Alliance team, and will feature sector leaders including  Dr Liz Whiting - Clinical Services, Executive Director, Metro North Hospital and Health Service, Michele Smith - Executive Manager, Aged and Community Care, Brisbane North PHN and Ken Whelan - Health Alliance Change Collaborator.