The NHS system in 2017 faces a lot pressure for a host of economic, social and political reasons. This blog will address the main challenges the NHS faces including questions about how these challenges are being met and the new government's approach to the NHS.
An ageing and growing population
When the NHS was created, life expectancy was 13 years shorter than it is now. The growing demand for treatment caused by the ageing population is increasing the strain on the NHS and its resources. According to the NHS website people over 65 are the fastest growing part of the population and are expected to represent 23% of the population by 2039. While this represents huge success by medical advances it also presents a significant challenge to the NHS as the cost of acute care rises with age. According to the BBC the average 65-year-old costs the NHS 2.5 times more than the average 30-year-old, while an 85-year-old costs more than five times as much. This is because older people are more likely to be readmitted to hospital and more likely to experience delay in transfer to other health or social care settings including their own homes. This is compounded by the rising cost of new drugs, ongoing treatment and specialist care to treat patients living with long-term complex conditions.
The impact of several lifestyle factors today such as poor diet, smoking, being overweight and drinking too much are and will continue to affect health service resources. All four factors contribute to disease and even death, adding cost to the NHS.
While smoking rates have fallen in recent years, the burden from obesity and drinking is on the rise. One in four adults are obese - a figure predicted to double in the next 40 years - helping drive up rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Obesity is currently estimated to cost the NHS over £4bn a year. The bill for dealing with drunkenness and alcohol abuse, which causes problems such as liver disease, is nearly £3bn a year, while the toll from smoking is slightly more despite the progress made in driving down the rates of smoking. - BBC
Medical and technological advances
Medical advancements save lots of lives every year, but push up costs considerably. It is estimated that progress in medical technology costs the NHS at least an extra £10bn a year.
Increased reliance on NHS services
More and more people are visiting A&E departments and minor injury units – which is stretching the ability of the departments to cope. A lot of the visits are unavoidable, but some are visiting because of inconsistent management of their long-term health conditions, the inability to get a GP appointment or insufficient information on where to go with a particular complaint. Winter sees an even bigger rise in visitor numbers with staff finding it harder by the year to cope.
What might I be asked about the current challenges facing the NHS?
- How are the challenges facing the NHS being met?
- What is the new governments' approach to these challenges?
- Since more people are living longer and working longer – do you think all patients over the age of 60 should be entitled to free prescriptions?
- What is your understanding of social care and why is it that we see a peak in admissions to A&E over the winter months?
- What is your understanding of an ageing population and what problems does this trend bring with it?
There is a lot of information relating to this subject online and in the news. Make sure to read around and keep on top of government policies and declarations relating to this.