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Identification and management of frailty in English primary care: a qualitative study of national policy

Sciprofile linkKhulud Alharbi, Harm Van Marwijk, David Reeves, Tom Blakeman
Published: 17 March 2020
BJGP Open ; doi:10.3399/bjgpopen20x101019

Abstract: BackgroundPolicymakers are directing attention to addressing the needs of an ageing population. Since 2017, general practices in England have been contractually required to identify and code ‘frailty’ as a new clinical concept and, in doing so, support targeted management for this population with the aim of improving outcomes. However, embedding frailty policies into routine practice is not without challenges and little is currently known about the success of the programme.AimTo explore the implementation of a national policy on frailty identification and management in English primary care.Design & settingQualitative study entailing interviews with primary care professionals in the North of England.MethodSemi-structured interviews were conducted with GPs (n = 10), nurses (n = 6), practice managers (n = 3), and health advisors (n = 3). Normalisation process theory (NPT) and ‘system thinking’ provided sensitising frameworks to support data collection and analysis.ResultsPrimary care professionals were starting to use the concept of frailty to structure care within practices and across organisations; however, there was widespread concern about the challenge of providing expanded care for the identified needs with existing resources. Concerns were also expressed around how best to identify the frail subpopulation and the limitations of current tools for this, and there was a professional reticence to use the term ‘frailty’ with patients.ConclusionFindings suggests that additional, focused resources and the development of a stronger evidence base are essential to facilitate professional engagement in policies to improve the targeted coding and management of frailty in primary care.
Keywords: Frailty / management / primary care / policies / Improving / structured / targeted coding

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