Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2023: Health in an Ageing Society

We need to recognise and reflect in policy and medical practice where older people are concentrated geographically, increase clinicians’ generalist skills, improve mental health provisions and make it unacceptable to exclude older adults from research because of older age or common comorbidities.’

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, 2023

 Summary

A lengthy, but interesting report published recently by the Chief Medical Officer (Professor Chris Whitty) entitled ‘Annual Report – 2023: Health in an ageing society’, covers a wealth of issues confronting the ageing communities across England,  highlighting the diversity of older people, and recognising how social inequalities in health across the life-course continue through our old age. Prof Whitty applauds the triumph of modern medicine in enabling many people to live longer, whilst appreciating the disparity of quality of life as some are confronted with ill health, frailty and loneliness.

The report raises issues which are very relevant and of great importance to the support provided by BJF. This brief summary of this document consolidates contemporary thinking and should inform discussions regarding the way the Foundation plans for the future.

The overall aim of this report is to establish the principles and explore ways of improving the quality of life of the UK ageing context. Interestingly enough, this report recognises the significant importance to non-medical issues as well. The principle thread woven through this document is the need to maintain older peoples’ independence as a way to improve their quality of life. This can be achieved through reducing diseases and adapting the environment to this population’s particular needs.

The Executive Summary is well worth a read; it highlights 13 areas around improving quality of life and not just longevity; that ill health and disability is not inevitable as we grow older; it stresses the importance of the context of ageing (i.e. where we live can directly impact on how we age); it reiterates the importance of maintaining independence as we age; it highlights the increase of multimorbidity’s and increasing mental health issues. The report also determines the pivotal and influential roles of the Government and the NHS; the importance of focusing on where the need is greatest; and finally asserts the need for older people’s engagement as being central to the research agenda.

Issues around the adjustments of the environment are one of the most relevant considerations for BJF as a provider of support. Therefore, it is of interest to note that one of the crucial recommendations of this report is the need to plan future services on the basis of where the population will age in the future, rather than where demand was ten years ago.  In doing so, the following factors should be considered:

  • Differences between urban and rural areas (there is a growing tendency of people to move to rural areas in the later stage of the lives);
  • Local infrastructure (i.e. transportation, access to places of leisure, housing, etc.);
  • Diversity of the population (i.e. ethnic, gender, sexuality etc.);
  • Social care research needs to be a core component of health research programme, a lack of which is a significant feature.

 

This is a very detailed and comprehensive report, that should inform the future direction of the developments of ageing across the UK. Whilst the role of third sector organisations is not significantly or consistently obvious, it provides us with opportunities to establish just how we can work collaboratively to support the ageing community members both locally and nationally. This is compulsive reading for anyone interested in the future of our ageing communities, and particularly recommended for staff members of BJF. It can be accessed via the following link:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/65562ff2d03a8d000d07faa6/chief-medical-officers-annual-report-2023-web-accessible.pdf

Prof Ziv Amir, Chair, Board of Trustees & Prof emerita Sue Read, CEO

Beth Johnson Foundation

January 2024

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