Understanding frailty: a qualitative study of European healthcare policy-makers’ approaches to frailty screening and management Journal Articles uri icon

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  • ObjectiveTo elicit European healthcare policy-makers’ views, understanding and attitudes about the implementation of frailty screening and management strategies and responses to stakeholders’ views.DesignThematic analysis of semistructured qualitative interviews.SettingEuropean healthcare policy departments.ParticipantsSeven European healthcare policy-makers representing the European Union (n=2), UK (n=2), Italy (n=1), Spain (n=1) and Poland (n=1). Participants were sourced through professional networks and the European Commission Authentication Service website and were required to be in an active healthcare policy or decision-making role.ResultsSeven themes were identified. Our findings reveal a ‘knowledge gap’, around frailty andawareness of the malleability of frailty,which has resulted in restrictedownership of frailtyby specialists. Policy-makers emphasised the need to recognise frailty as a clinical syndrome but stressed that it should be managed via an integrated and interdisciplinary response to chronicity and ageing. That is, through social co-production. This would require aculture shift in carewith redeployment of existing resources to deliver frailty management and intervention services. Policy-makers proposedbarriers to a culture shift,indicating a need to be innovative with solutions to empower older adults to optimise their health and well-being, while still fully engaging in the social environment. Thecultural acceptance of an integrated care systemtheme described the complexities of institutional change management, as well as cultural issues relating to working democratically, while insignposting adult care, the need for a personal navigator to help older adults to access appropriate services was proposed. Policy-makers also believed thatscreening for frailtycould be an effective tool for frailty management.ConclusionsThere is potential for frailty to be managed in a more integrated and person-centred manner, overcoming the challenges associated with niche ownership within the healthcare system. There is also a need to raise its profile and develop a common understanding of its malleability among stakeholders, as well as consistency in how and when it is measured.


  • Gwyther, Holly
  • Shaw, Rachel
  • Jaime Dauden, Eva-Amparo
  • D’Avanzo, Barbara
  • Kurpas, Donata
  • Bujnowska-Fedak, Maria
  • Kujawa, Tomasz
  • Marcucci, Maura
  • Cano, Antonio
  • Holland, Carol

publication date

  • January 2018

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