The Scottish national LifeCurve™ survey : costs of functional decline, opportunities to achieve early intervention to support well-being in later life, and meaningfulness of the LifeCurve™

Kelso, S. and Mitchell, S. and Rowe, P. J. and Gore, P. (2020) The Scottish national LifeCurve™ survey : costs of functional decline, opportunities to achieve early intervention to support well-being in later life, and meaningfulness of the LifeCurve™. Public Health, 180. pp. 129-135. ISSN 1476-5616 (

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Objectives: The aim of the Scottish AHP LifeCurve™ survey was to gather a snapshot of where people are on their LifeCurve™ when receiving allied health professions (AHP) services and to understand the cost consequence of intervening ‘late’ in the ageing trajectory. The objectives were to promote discussion around preventing functional decline, support innovation in service delivery, and facilitate broader engagement with individuals, communities, and wider environments for improving health and well-being in later life. In addition, subsequent learning could help address the increasing resource gap between the demand and capacity across health and social care. Study design: The survey was paper-based in the form of a printed booklet, which contained the 15 activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental ADL (IADL) which comprise the LifeCurve™ with additional lifestyle questions and information about the member of staff and service the participant was seen in, including their Community Health Index (CHI) number. The survey questions and booklet layout were tested over a five-month period with AHPs and people receiving AHP services. Liaison with national health literacy colleagues and lead speech and language therapists ensured that the survey material was accessible to a wide range of people. In addition, the survey could be made available in alternative formats, on request. Methods: Agreement to undertake the national survey was obtained in November 2016 by all AHP directors and associate directors who appointed communication support leads in their area who would support implementation at all stages at a local level. All materials relating to the survey were published on a dedicated area of a community of practice to support awareness and training during the preimplementation phase. AHPs working in adult services were asked to complete a survey with a minimum of two people they would ‘typically’ see in their service during a two-week period in May 2017, with the exclusion of people who were too unwell to participate, children and young people under 16 years, and adults with incapacity and without a guardianship arrangement in place. Approval was gained from the Public Benefit Privacy Panel to link the survey data to participants' health service usage using their CHI number. Completed forms were returned to the University of Strathclyde for entry into an encrypted electronic database using a double data entry process and were allocated a unique identifier. The unique identifier and CHI numbers were sent to Information Services Division (ISD), and then, the CHI numbers were deleted from the encrypted database. ISD sent the linked health data to the Scottish Government Analytical Services Division, which thus produced a full encrypted and anonymised database. Results: The data explain what stages on the LifeCurve™ AHPs are intervening, and the matched data provide associated healthcare costs at each stage. Due to poor or missing data in the AHP/Service section, only 60% (n = 8261) of the total completed surveys were able to be matched with health service usage records. These data show that whilst AHPs are seeing people at each of the 15 ADL/IADL stages on the LifeCurve™, interventions fell into three groups where 25% of people where seen at the ‘precurve’ stage, 13% of people at ‘mid-curve’ (stage number five), and 39% of people at ‘late-curve’ (stages 10 to 13). The healthcare cost usage of these participants increased the further along the LifeCurve™ a person moves, with an average annual cost of £2700 at ‘precurve’ rising to £12,330 at ‘late-curve’ in 2016–2017. The results indicate that different services and professions are represented at each of these three points. So, for example, as might be expected, outpatient (especially musculoskeletal) services were seen more often at the ‘precurve’ stage, and in-patient and community rehabilitation, services were seen more often at the ‘late-curve’ stages; diagnostic radiographers and orthoptists saw people at the ‘early-curve’ stages, dieticians and podiatrists saw people at the ‘mid-curve’ stage, whilst physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, and occupational therapists saw people at the ‘late-curve’ stages. Data analysis showed this pattern is different for people receiving mental health services and, so, their data were removed and will be analysed and reported separately. Conclusions: It is clear from the results that healthcare costs increased as participants moved down LifeCurve™ stages, that is, as their levels of functional decline increase. It is also clear that AHPs are intervening late in a person's functional decline with associated limitations on changing their ageing trajectory. The cost consequence of this is significant – moving someone from ‘late- to mid-curve’ could save £3200 per person per annum. However, those AHPs typically associated with reabling approaches and rehabilitation, which have greatest potential to change ageing trajectories, were not represented at the ‘mid-curve’ stage (e.g., physiotherapists, occupational therapists). Therefore, we must find places to have conversations with people to inform them that functional decline is malleable and not inevitable purely by virtue of chronological age and provide education and support to prevent or reverse functional decline and collaborate around strategic planning and commissioning to offer different options that support an optimum LifeCurve™.