Press Release: The future of health and social care

Towards a new care pathway for Europe's ageing societies: The example of incontinence.

By Jean Lambert

11 Feb 2015

On Wednesday, 28 January, I was privileged to chair a breakfast meeting on "The future of health and social care: Towards a new care pathway for Europe's ageing societies: The example of incontinence". The meeting was hosted by AGE Platform Europe and Eurocarers and co-chaired by my colleagues MEP Marian Harkin and MEP Heinz Becker. The event was initiated and supported by SCA Hygiene products.

As Europe's population is ageing, a key challenge is to develop care pathways that support better integrated health and social care services for an increasing number older people. In too many countries, we see barriers between the two areas rather than co-ordination.  The meeting brought together policy leaders in health and social care to learn more about the current burden of incontinence on patients, carers and society and to discuss the need for a new care pathway for Europe's ageing societies with the aim to deliver the best possible care and help older people live independent and dignified lives. The Optimum Continence Service Specification (OCSS) on the ideal organisation of care for people with incontinence provided an excellent example of such an integrated care model.

Incontinence is a very common and distressing health and social care issue that affects the lives of over 25 million people in Europe today (of which the majority is 65+), but which often goes unreported. As we learned from the dynamic presentation of Mr. Archie Noone, a patient with incontinence and dementia, it can have a profound impact on the daily lives of older people as they seek to live active, healthy and independent lives and age with dignity.  In support of Archie Noone's testimony, there was a general consensus about the importance of speaking about incontinence, which remains still a silent disease despite its high prevalence.

Mr. Ralf Jacob of the European Commission presented the work and the perspective of the European Commission on the future of long term care (LTC) in the EU, addressing the need for more efficient and better integrated health and social care services in LTC.  Dr. Adrian Wagg, Professor of Healthy Ageing, followed and gave an inspiring overview of the OCSS as an example of a care pathway that is designed to deliver the best possible care for people with incontinence in a sustainable way.

Colleague MEP Marian Harkin then opened the floor for a lively debate amongst speakers and participants on the possible barriers and solutions to improving the quality and delivery of care for Europe's ageing population, highlighting incontinence and the OCSS as an example. Attendees agreed on the need for care coordination and highlighted the role of health literacy and assistive technology in better management of incontinence. Some participants mentioned the need to gather and present data about the economic impact of incontinence in order to make the case for policy action, while others argued that the economic argument is outbalanced by an increasing socio-demographic mass of people living with incontinence.

I believe it is critical to integrate health and social care if we are to meet the needs of our ageing population. Inspired by the example of incontinence and the OSCC, I would therefore like to call on my colleagues in the European Institutions to making coordinated health and social care a reality and give incontinence the priority it deserves.


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