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CMO's report focuses on baby boomers

Tagged In:  Allied Health, Nursing

What does the future hold for the health and wellbeing of the 'baby boomer' generation? The Chief Medical Officer's latest Annual Report shares some fascinating insights.

Born between 1946 and 1964, the so-called 'baby boomer' generation has experienced massive social and technological change. But what's next for this huge cohort of 53 to 71-year-olds who are set to live longer than any of their ancestors? How will their health fare? Will they continue to work? Will they enjoy a thriving, productive older age? Or will they add to the pressures on healthcare services?

And what about the healthcare staff themselves who will need to adapt to the huge demographic shift? With almost a third of nurses over 50 themselves, and one in 10 nursing posts in England unfilled, how will the NHS regenerate its workforce to meet future demand?

Some of the key challenges and opportunities are discussed in Baby Boomers: Fit for the Future, the latest report on the state of the public's health, commissioned and co-written by Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies.

One of the key conclusions is that staying in good quality work has considerable benefits for older people, including health, self-esteem and cognitive ability. It's also good for productivity and economic prosperity. 

However, the report asserts that employers have a vital role to play in providing good working conditions. Workers aged over 55 years report the highest rates of illness caused or made worse by their jobs. And rates of self-reported stress, depression or anxiety caused or made worse by work are highest for men and women in the age band 45–54 years.
The report also warns about the dangers of lifestyle-related illnesses. One in three baby boomers is currently obese and cases of diabetes rose by 97% among men and 57% among women aged 50-69 years between 1990 and 2013.

As for the issue of an ageing nursing workforce, this is now a critical factor according to a recent Institute for Employment Studies report on the UK labour market for nurses, which called for 'adequate and sustained investment in workforce planning'. The proportion of nurses aged 50 or over increased from just over 20% in 2005 to nearly 30% in 2014.

A Department of Health spokesman pointed out that there were 11,000 more nurses in NHS hospitals across the UK than there were in 2010 and that training numbers are increasing.

To help reduce unprecedented demand on NHS resources from an ageing population, Professor Davies' believes that there are many opportunities to ensure the baby boomer generation is 'fit for the future'. "I believe this generation still has a lot to offer and can contribute actively to both our society and the economy," she writes in her report. "Yet they are a group with specific health and social needs and much can be done to improve these both now and in anticipation of ‘old age’."

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