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Hospital admissions for older Australians are rising rapidly, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australian hospital statistics 2011-12, shows that the number of hospital admissions for people aged 85 and over rose by 9% each year between 2007­-08 and 2011-12. This compared with an average increase of 4% per year overall for hospital admissions over this period.

'In 2011-12, people aged 85 and over, who make up less than 2% of the population, accounted for 7% of all hospital admissions and 13% of days spent by patients in hospital,' said AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves.

People aged 85 and over accounted for 592,000 admissions of the total of 9.3 million for 2011-12.

People aged 85 and over were more likely to stay overnight, with just over half (51%) of their admissions being for overnight acute care compared with 39% for all admissions.

People aged 85 and over also had a higher proportion (13%) of admissions for sub-and non-acute care compared with less than 5% overall. About 8% of this care was for rehabilitation,  2% for Geriatric evaluation and management, about 1.5% for Maintenance care and 1% for Palliative care.

The report also shows that, in 2011-12, there were 2.3 million emergency admissions (patients who require admission within 24 hours), accounting for 40% of admissions to public hospitals and 5% in private hospitals.

There were 2.4 million admissions involving surgery in 2011-12, 1.0 million in public hospitals and 1.4 million in private hospitals. Of these, 2.1 million were elective admissions (did not require admission within 24 hours) and 295,000 were emergency admissions.

Indigenous Australians had about twice the rate of emergency admissions involving surgery compared with other Australians (25 per 1,000 people compared with 13 per 1,000 people).

In contrast, Indigenous Australians had a much lower rate of elective admissions involving surgery compared with other Australians-54 per 1,000 people compared with 87 per 1,000 people respectively.

'The number of presentations to public hospital emergency departments also rose, from 5.5 million to 6.5 million between 2007-08 and 2011-12,' Ms Hargreaves said. This was an increase of 4.3% per year, on average.

There was an 8% increase in the number of Emergency patients (where clinical care is required within 10 minutes) and a 6% increase in the number of Urgent patients (care required within 30 minutes) between 2007-08 and 2011-12. This contrasted with a 3% increase for patients requiring care within a period longer than 30 minutes.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 19 April 2013

Further information: Ms Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, tel. 6244 1121, mob. 0407 012 520

Full publication: Australian hospital statistics 2011-12