Professor David Oliver, England's national clinical director for older people, said funding pressures and mounting evidence of poor care were creating ‘a perfect storm around the care for older people’.
The Nicholson challenge, named after NHS Commissioning Board chief executive Sir David Nicholson, aims to find £20bn in efficiency savings across the NHS over five years - an annual saving of 4% of the total NHS budget.
Professor Oliver warned that, without introducing solutions to the problems of poor care, inefficiencies would remain and costs would continue to escalate. He made the comments at a King’s Fund event, Achieving high-quality care for people with complex needs.
He said: ‘The existential challenge of the age, which is 4% efficiency savings for each of the next four years, will not be delivered unless we address older people with complex needs because that is where the money is and that is where the inefficiencies are.'
Professor Oliver ran through a long list of reports and iniatives that have highlighted the shortcomings of care for older people:
- ‘Care and compassion?’ report by the Health Service Ombudsman
- Patients Association's Care campaign and standards
- Care Quality Commission’s dignity and nutrition for older people inspections
- The Commission on improving dignity in care
- The National Dementia Strategy, and a ‘raft of reports on poor care for people with dementia’
Professor Oliver highlighed the importance of the planned age equality duty.
‘For the first time, in law it will now be illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of age in the provision of health and social care services,’ he said. ‘There’s also a possible obligation to provide non-discriminatory.’
He also stressed the importance of moving away from politically driven initiatives. ‘The Daily Mail narrative - that it is all doom and sensationalist scandal and a mythical golden age of nursing care that never existed - is completely unhelpful,' he said. 'We have to move away from that and adopt some modern, constructive solutions.'
The King's Fund is launching a project looking at co-ordinated care for people with complex chronic conditions.