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Getting older people's care right

Professor David Oliver, the Royal College of Physicians' (RCP's) clinical vice president and a speaker at our Acute and general medicine conference in October, talks about his passion for geriatric medicine.

As a junior doctor I was always happiest when I was working at the acute hospital front door, dealing with the general medical take or high-turnover general medical wards. So, becoming a consultant physician and doing my MRCP made sense.

If the specialty of acute internal medicine had existed in the early 1990s, I might have picked it. But I was most inspired by geriatric medicine and the consultant geriatricians who I worked for. I enjoyed the fact that you needed to be a good all-round general physician, that the specialty emphasises a genuinely multidisciplinary approach and a focus on the social and physical needs of the patient, and the need to work at the interface with community services. Also, like many geriatricians, I really enjoy working with older people and, when I was at the start of my consultant career, I enjoyed fighting the corner for a disadvantaged patient group and a sometimes undervalued specialty.

When I was at the start of my consultant career, I enjoyed fighting the corner for a disadvantaged patient group and a sometimes undervalued specialty.

Professor David Oliver on being a geriatrician

A lot has changed these days, with geriatric medicine being the biggest general internal medicine (GIM) specialty and the British Geriatrics Society (BGS) being the largest specialty society. Also, crucially, older people who live with frailty, multiple long-term conditions, dementia or age-related disability now account for a high percentage of NHS activity and spending.

Getting older people's care right is crucial to maintaining the health and care services and, because there will never be enough geriatricians to look after them all, their care, and the care of people at the end of life, is everybody’s business. As we move towards creating more integrated services across traditional boundaries, more joined-up approaches to the care of older people are increasingly important – and such approaches are what older people and their families want to see.

I spend a lot of time speaking about medicine to other geriatricians and groups of doctors who have a special interest in the care of older people, and to people from the policy and management world. The RCP's Acute and general medicine conference is a highly valued, flagship event that is attended by fellow physicians from a range of specialties; as the past president of the BGS and current clinical vice president of the RCP, it is nice to have a diverse audience to speak to on a subject that I am so passionate about.

Professor David Oliver, RCP clinical vice president

To hear more from Professor Oliver about geriatric medicine and the care of older people, book your place at the RCP's Acute and general medicine conference in London on 23–25 October.