Assess the impact of a growing and ageing population on:
The health system and services
A growing and ageing population increases the demand for health services and creates workforce shortages in the health service as an increase in the workforce would be required. There is concern that the ageing population will increase public spending on health and place an unsustainable strain on the health system trying to serve the increasing cliental. This concern comes because an increase in age is associated with an increase in health conditions and disability making the elderly high users of health services. Currently there is an increase in the people living past 85 who suffer from diseases such as arthritis, dementia and cancer, while the generation moving into the 65+ age group have larger levels of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes. The resulting challenges focus on how the health system and its workforce will manage the health needs of the ageing population, particularly the increasing impact of chronic disease. The elderly visit health professionals more frequently than younger people, with 98% of the elderly (90% under 65) consulting a health professional in the last year. In particular, the elderly have much higher rates of specialist consultation; with 57% of the elderly using a specialist in the last year, compared to 28% of people under 65, and hospitalisation (20% compared to 11%).
In the last 10 years the number of people living in aged care facilities has risen by 20%. This reflects the growing and ageing population as well as the increase in government-subsidised residential places. Aged care caries a high burden on the health system with all of their residents having chronic disease or illness that increased the demand for health services. Many who live in these facilities (52%) also have symptoms of depression.
Health service workforce
The increase in aged care facilities also require an increase in workforce training in aged care and issues surrounding chronic diseases and disability. An ageing population requires an adequate health workforce. This relates to not only the number in the workforce, but their distribution and skills as well. Of particular concern is the increased demand for workforce in the aged care sector and specialists.
One way to address this growing demand for health services and workforce shortages is to focus on efficient coordination of care. The elderly have higher rates of multiple diseases and disability and coordinated care and a focus on safe use of medication would decrease the demand for health services and workforce shortages. Such a focus would reduce duplication of tests, medicating and medical records. Further efficiency might be achieved through greater interaction with aged care services, with focus on both the care and the setting in which it is provided. Of particular interest is the interaction between the hospitals and the aged care system. With 1 in 4 aged care residents visiting hospital a year accounting for approximately 9% of hospitalisations.
In 2012 the Australian government introduced the Living Longer, Living Better aged care reform package, which aims to address the attraction, retention, remuneration, education, training and career development of aged care workers, in order to address workforce shortages.