First off, an anecdote inspired by the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP’s, announcement to mark the 65th anniversary of the NHS, that all older people will have a named clinician responsible for their care.
This is absolutely good news. But it’s the view down the narrow end of the telescope. I wonder how things might look if it was an older person looking down the other end of the telescope?
Gordon Lishman, the former DG of Age Concern (now called Age UK and looking ever more like the charity equivalent of ‘Poundstretcher’), once said at a conference, ‘we will know change is upon us when doctors and health care staff can remember an older person’s name and call them by it [sic].’
Anyway, I am thrilled by the fact that this whole episode reminded me to dig out and pass on a really rather excellent paper by a colleague, Peter Lansley, who is Professor Emeritus (Construction Business Management, Assistive Technology, Ageing) at the School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading.
His paper, published in Ageing and Society last year, is a review of the special programmes of ageing research run by the research councils and others over the last 15 years. It is a highly readable critique of how the aforementioned bodies failed to grasp the opportunities to promulgate multi-disciplinary research into ageing: top-down, highly linear in their approach, and certainly not user-driven, most of these programmes have failed to deliver anything of more than passing interest.
You will see that one of the other observations Peter makes in his paper is the extent to which single disease concerns have dominated the view taken by funders, again to the detriment of the whole. Some years ago the government funders, charities and others pulled themselves together into what is called the UK Age Research Forum (UKARF). In fact I have featured several of its meetings on these pages. It was never the easiest of partnerships. But it really does look in abeyance at the moment.
If you look at the website, there are no UKARF events listed and most of the forthcoming activity is disease specific and run by the relevant charity. I note the Alzheimer’s Society provides the secretariat but they have a lot on their hands with the Dementia Challenge. So, it might be good for someone else to step up to the plate although in my experience few organisations felt able to go that in the past. And maybe UKARF is not the right model. But, in the meantime, I fear another year of missed opportunity for multi-disciplinary and multi-agency ageing research lies ahead.
My apologies to Peter for taking so long to flag this paper up….