Living well: how can regional health and social care services work together to support older people in the future?
The ageing population in the central south region poses significant challenges and opportunities. Tony Curtis , Professor of Management at the University of Winchester, explores the issues and explains why the University can play an important role in addressing future challenges.
Last Thursday the University hosted a topical and important debate on health and social care. Other than being part of the University, one thing that is common to all of is that we are getting older!
It is good news for us and for our communities that people are living longer, including the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge, skills and experience of older people. We are, however, aware of the current pressures on our health and social care system including from elderly people in need of care. We will see these pressures grow as the proportion of elderly people increases and more people live with disabilities or debilitating conditions.
Our part of the country, the central south, will be home to nearly 1.8 million people over 65 years of age by 2039, about 700,000 more than live here today. In 25 years they will make up one in four of the region's population. If current trends continue then more than 800,000 of our older people could live alone and be at risk of loneliness by 2039.
These are startling statistics but, whilst the ageing population is one of the greatest challenges facing public services, longer lives also bring opportunities for social gain. For a University which values compassion and individuals the debate, on health and social care was both relevant and timely.
The seminar, organised jointly with the Southern Policy Centre, featured expert speakers from the Centre for Ageing Better, Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust and Hampshire County Council. Their talks were followed by a lively question and answer session.
Despite the challenges, which have been exacerbated in recent years by the financial pressures on the public sector, our speakers were all optimistic about the future. They all emphasised the importance of living well and of the partners involved in the health and care system working together.
Technological innovation can reduce the pressures on the system, for example the Chief Executive of our Hospital Trust, Alex Whitfield, commented that 60 per cent of contact with GPs could be managed successfully through E-consultations. Healthy lifestyles can keep people out of the system - currently significant increases in the percentage of elderly people with, for example, diabetes, obesity and hypertension are predicted but these could be reduced by people living better.
The Chairman of the Centre for Ageing Better, Lord Geoffrey Filkin, said that a strategy is needed across society, not just the NHS. Graham Allen Director of Adult Health and Social Care, emphasised the important role of the voluntary and community sectors, of carers and of being good neighbours.
They were numerous references to the importance of local leadership and of working in partnership. Compassion, community and neighbourliness were also recurring themes during the evening. All of this resonates well with the University's values and it is clear that it can play an important role, with partners, in helping to address the challenges of an ageing society. The University already has its Health and Well-being Research Group and its collaboration with the Hospital Trust. Working with the Southern Policy Centre we also intend to have further seminars, probably starting with one focused on 'physical activity and health'.
A briefing paper Health and Social Care: The Challenge Facing the Central South prepared by the Southern Policy Centre is available on the University of Winchester website at: www.winchester.ac.uk/health-social-briefing