Emergency bowel surgery is more dangerous for older patients – yet they are the most likely to need it.

The problem is so serious that around 20% of patients over 65 who have an emergency abdominal surgery die within 30 days of the op. Many others suffer debilitating complications, in some cases losing their independence altogether.

Clearly, research is urgently needed – to improve our understanding of older surgical patients, to save lives, and reduce damaging complications for this important group of NHS users. So in 2017, BDRF funded the ELF Study (Emergency Laparotomy and Frailty), which aimed to help surgeons identify older patients most at risk during emergency procedures and improve their chances of a good outcome.

The results are now in – and they are extremely important. Through savvy use of social media and a lot of hard work, the team hit almost double their recruitment target – having aimed to collect data on 500 patients, they ended up registering 926 from 49 hospitals.

Data like this is invaluable and will help to drive changes in clinical practice that benefit patients. The team are now already working on the next phase – putting the data into practice and developing interventions to help frailer patients get through surgery.

So it’s clear the legacy of ELF will not be put on the shelf – Susan Moug, the Paisley-based surgeon who led the study, was invited to contribute a guest blog for Visit Scotland’s #IdeasBecomeLegend campaign, with further influential presentations and publications on the way.

We are once again extremely proud to have funded work that has huge meaning for both patients and the way the NHS works. As the population gets older and people live longer lives, we need to be able to give them the best possible care. Through the help of our donors and supporters we are able to fund work like this and make sure that happens – thank you to all of you and to the hard working elves who made this project happen!