Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum by The British Geriatrics Society (Scotland)

  Following discussion at our recent Council meeting I have been asked to submit the following comments on behalf of BGS (Scotland):


  A disproportionate quantity of research on genetics and molecular biology is being supported. Influences on lifestyle (exercise, nutrition, smoking etc) in later life are more promising areas of research, with the potential for immediate impact on peoples' lives, but such clinically-orientated research is not viewed as competitive by many funding councils.

  A key determinant of quality of life in later life is health. As the presence of several chronic diseases is common in later life, better medical assessment, diagnosis and disease management are major influences. Concern is growing that initiatives such as intermediate care are depriving older people of access to such comprehensive geriatric assessment. There is overwhelming evidence that this approach is effective in enabling older people to remain independent for longer and to enjoy a better quality of life. Health services research on how to improve access to these cornerstones of medical/health care are urgently required.


  Some technologies have the potential to be helpful in later life. The problem with many is expense and limited availability. The three main fears of old age are loneliness, "being a burden" and having to give up one's home to move into nursing home care. Strategies with the potential to modulate any or all of these would be welcomed.


  The Charity, the Health Foundation, was a major funder of patient-orientated, clinical research. Unfortunately, it has shifted its focus away from older people. This now leaves Research into Ageing as the sole charitable funder of ageing research in the UK. There is no doubt that ageing research (and older people) is suffering as a consequence. There is major concern that major trials of therapies and pharmaceuticals still exclude "typical" older people. The mean age of participants in heart failure (a disease of old age) trials for example is 62 years, when the mean age of onset is 75 years. Arbitrary upper age limits of 70 or 75 years are still commonly applied to trials. This is not acceptable as most medicine are prescribed to older people. Furthermore in contrast to the profile of most trial participants (male, middle aged, single pathology, otherwise fit and well, excellent compliance) the actual consumers of most medicine are female, over 75, suffering from multiple medical problems, receiving multiple different medicines, and compliance is sub optimal). This mismatch should be addressed.

September 2004

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