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The chief doctor on the increase of Danes over 80 years: The healthcare system and municipalities may be overwhelmed by a steam roller.

DR-Inland in Denmark

Tuesday, June 11, 2024 • 5:14 AM UTC - in Denmark

While the number of Danish citizens over 80 years old is increasing dramatically in the coming years, there will simultaneously be a shortage of staff to care for and treat them.

This issue is being addressed today by the Health Structure Commission with several solutions, but Stig Andersen, chief doctor at the Geriatric Ward at Aalborg University Hospital, is already noticing the trend.

- The development of the aging population requires collaboration across sectors. If care for the elderly is not prioritized, the healthcare system and municipalities will be overwhelmed.

Stig Andersen is the chief doctor at the Geriatric Ward at Aalborg University Hospital. (Photo: © Mette Nielsen, DR Nordjylland)

The geriatric ward at Aalborg University Hospital has been affected by overcrowding in most of the first months of the year and, as a result, has had more patients than it has personnel and resources for.

Even on this day, as Stig Andersen shows DR around the ward.

- All wards are fully occupied.


Expert Group to Find Solutions


The Health Structure Commission was established by the government in March last year with the clear goal of proposing how the Danish healthcare system should look in the future.

- There is a need for change, said Health Minister Sophie Løhde (V) last year (

One of the root causes of problems in the healthcare system is the rapid aging of the population, which is happening right now.

The large birth cohorts born in the mid-1940s are turning 80 this year, so while there were approximately 270,000 Danish citizens over 80 years old in 2020, the number is expected to increase significantly to approximately 470,000 Danish citizens over 80 years old in 2035.

A 70% increase in just 15 years.

And since the elderly are heavy consumers of care and treatment in the healthcare system, changes must mean less focus on hospitals and more focus on municipalities, general practitioners, and everything that happens close to the citizen.

That's what Kjeld Møller Pedersen, professor emeritus in healthcare economics at Syddansk University, believes.

- When you look at the number of 80-year-olds, it explodes. And when we have an aging population, we have correspondingly many who have chronic diseases and suffer from more than one disease. A solution must be found for them, so they don't end up in hospitals. They should stay in the close healthcare system.

But the shortage of healthcare personnel will be a major problem that the commission must also find solutions for, as Kjeld Møller Pedersen also emphasizes.

The latest figures show that there will be a shortage of around 14,500 social and healthcare assistants and helpers in relation to 2021 by 2035.

- Hospitals should not receive many extra resources. The extra resources should mainly go to the close healthcare system. That is, to municipalities and to general practitioners, says Kjeld Møller Pedersen.


Hospitals should go to the people


And according to Stig Andersen, chief doctor at the Geriatric Ward at Aalborg University Hospital, it is important that doctors at the hospital go out to the people and help municipalities in the future.

- It is necessary that hospitals contribute to bearing responsibility in municipal administration, as not all elderly patients can be handled in the hospital sector. We need cooperation with municipalities.

The Health Structure Commission is presenting its proposals today at 1:00 PM at Holbæk Hospital.

Warning: This article was translated by a Large Language Model, in case of doubt, you can always visit the original source.