Where are we in perioperative medicine for older surgical patients? A UK survey of geriatric medicine delivered services in surgery

Age Ageing. 2014 Sep;43(5):721-4. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afu084. Epub 2014 Aug 4.


Introduction: national reports have highlighted deficiencies in care provided to older surgical patients and suggested a role for innovative, collaborative, inter-specialty models of care. The extent of geriatrician-led perioperative services in the UK (excluding orthogeriatric services) has not previously been described. This survey describes current services and explores barriers to further development.

Methods: an electronic survey was sent to clinical leads for geriatric medicine at all 161 acute NHS health care trusts in the UK. Reminders were sent on three occasions over an 8-week period. The survey examined preoperative and postoperative care and organisational issues. Responses were analysed descriptively.

Results: there were 130 respondents (80.7%). One-third (38) of respondents described providing some geriatric medicine input in older surgical patients. Preoperative services existed in 15 (12%), where 14 provided risk assessment and 13 preoperative optimisation. Twenty-six respondents (20%) delivered care postoperatively, of them 10 took a reactive approach, 11 a proactive approach and 5 provided a combination of reactive and proactive care. Barriers to establishing perioperative geriatric medicine services included funding, workforce issues and a lack of inter-specialty collaboration.

Conclusion: a national appetite exists to provide geriatrician-led services to older surgical patients yet the majority of existing services remain reactive and do not use comprehensive geriatric assessment as an organising principle. This survey suggests that funding for geriatricians in perioperative care has not yet been universally established. Future efforts should focus on dissemination of experiential knowledge and published resources, collaboration with commissioners and empirical research to overcome the barriers described.

Keywords: clinical pathways; health services; liaison geriatrics; older adults; perioperative medicine.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Delivery of Health Care / trends*
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services for the Aged / trends*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Perioperative Care / trends*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom