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Frailty – from bedside to buzzword?

Jill Manthorpe (The Social Care Workforce Research Unit, Kings College London, London, United Kingdom.)
Steve Iliffe (Primary Care and Population Sciences, University College London, Royal Free Hospital, London, UK)

Journal of Integrated Care

ISSN: 1476-9018

Article publication date: 15 June 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore common usage and understanding of the term “frailty”, which is increasingly used in health care debates in England.


This is a commentary from the perspectives of health and social care researchers. Recent policy and research are drawn upon in the arguments presented.


Most research on the subject of frailty comes from clinical practice although a parallel sociological or gerontological critique of the social construction is emerging. The public is likely to come across the term frailty through the media’s adoption of the term. Different definitions of frailty mean that estimates of the numbers of “frail people” will vary.

Research limitations/implications

The commentary draws on material in the English language and on policy, commentary, and research material.

Practical implications

The commentary may prompt reflection in practice and policy development on the usage of the term frailty and promote efforts to ensure that its meaning is clear and that it is acceptable to those to whom it is applied.


The paper contributes to debates about frailty by considering the implications of using the term across health and social care and in integrated settings and encounters. It draws on medical presentations of the term frailty and on critiques of it as a powerful discourse.



Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors alone and should not be regarded as necessarily shared by the Department of Health.

The Social Care Workforce Research Unit receives funding from the Department of Health’s Policy Research Programme.


Manthorpe, J. and Iliffe, S. (2015), "Frailty – from bedside to buzzword?", Journal of Integrated Care, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 120-128.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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