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Norfolk trust leads the way in creating emergency department for older people

The NHS's first emergency department for older people is being set up to meet the needs of an ageing population.

  • Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's emergency department for older people will be an NHS first
  • Part of several initiatives by the trust to improve care of older people
  • 2016 Office for National Statistics statistics revealed there were 571,245 people aged 90 or over in the UK

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has announced plans to create an emergency department (ED) solely for patients aged 80 and over.

A&E older
Credit: John Houlihan

The NHS's first emergency department for older people is being set up to meet the needs of an ageing population.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has announced plans to create an emergency department (ED) solely for patients aged 80 and over.

These patients will be sent straight to the older people's ED where they will receive care from emergency services' doctors, geriatricians and specialist nurses, the trust said.

There were 571,245 people aged 90 and over living in the UK in 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Home to one of the UK's largest populations of older people

Trust consultant for older people's medicine Martyn Patel said: 'Norfolk is home to one of the largest populations of older people in country, which is continuing to grow at a fast rate.

'This means we've got to do something that no one else has done before in the UK, to ensure our older patients are able to receive the best care most appropriate to their needs in a timely manner.'

Patients who require a longer admission will still then be admitted directly to one of the specialist older people’s wards.

The tailored ED is one of several initiatives by the trust to improve the care available to older patients.

They include the older people's assessment service that allows GPs direct access to a booked appointment with a specialist geriatrician for their patient within 48 hours of referral. This replaces the generally long wait for an outpatient clinic appointment.

Ensuring a 'gold standard' of care

The trust says the aim of these changes is to ensure patients receive the 'gold standard' of care – a comprehensive geriatric assessment – within 48 hours of referral or immediately on presentation to the trust.

These assessments have been shown to identify an older person’s risk of frailty by assessing their medical conditions, mental health, level of independence and social circumstances. This saves time for the patient, improves their immediate care and prevents problems for the future, the trust says.

In addition to the changes for older people's services, the paediatric ED is also expanding the number of treatment areas from three to nine by Christmas, with space available to expand this to 15 areas in early 2018. 


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