'Postcode lottery' in healthcare for elderly Scots - study

Elderly Scots face a healthcare “postcode lottery”, a new study led by Aberdeen University has found.
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The Scottish Care of Older People (SCoOP) national audit project, carried out in 2019, found the standard and availability of hospital care for older people differs “significantly” based on where they live.

Larger health boards have disproportionately more resources compared to population, according to the study, published in the journal Healthcare.

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It is the first time this kind of study has been carried out.

Picture: Getty ImagesPicture: Getty Images
Picture: Getty Images

The results also showed variations between health boards across all key aspects studied – individual aspects of staffing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, psychiatry, pharmacy and social work as well as multidisciplinary team input.

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Dr Christine McAlpine, co-chair of the SCoOP Steering group, said the findings were important in the context of an ageing population.

She said: "Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment (CGA) is effective in producing better outcomes in older people and in the context of an increasing ageing population with multi-morbidity and frailty. It is important that hospitals evaluate their CGA provision to ensure the highest standard of care for older people admitted to hospitals and optimal outcome”.

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Phyo Myint, professor of medicine of old age at the University of Aberdeen and co-chair of the SCoOP Steering group, added: “Our findings provide essential information for clinicians, service providers, policy makers and the public to improve their local services.

“Our results should offer a basis for opening discussion between services to learn from each other’s expertise as we aim to work collaboratively to improve acute care for frail older adults in Scotland and shape Scottish Geriatric Medicine into a world-leading service."

The British Geriatrics Society (BGS) welcomed the report.

Dr Rowan Wallace, chair of BGS Scotland, said: “BGS Scotland fully supports the SCoOP report findings and how they powerfully highlight the variations in how CGA can be accessed, structured and staffed in acute care across Scotland by our older population.”

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.

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