Like everything at the moment, the cost of healthcare has risen exponentially in the last year or so, and with that comes other issues.
People are living longer now than they did even 20 years ago. An ageing population has an impact across the board. The more our population increases through people living longer, the bigger the strain on resources across the board. More housing costs, and higher healthcare costs in terms of medical care and residential care.
There are currently 3.2 million people over the age of 80 living in the UK, and this number is set to reach nearly 8 million people by 2050. By this point, 25% of the population will be over 65. Although a longer life expectancy is a positive effect of good healthcare (and is therefore a trend commonly seen in more economically developed countries), an ageing population also increases the burden on healthcare systems. Evolving healthcare needs, such as the increase in cases of obesity and diabetes, or antibiotic resistance.
Cuts in social care spending have led to increased admissions to A&E among people aged 65 and over, placing increased demand on already under-pressure services. Inadequate social care can leave elderly people vulnerable to infections, falls and dehydration, which would otherwise be avoidable. If an elderly person is admitted to A&E after a fall, it can sometimes take days or weeks for them to be discharged, which is described as bed blocking. Certain areas of the UK are affected more than others because older people are more likely to live in rural areas or by the coast.
To reduce the risks of the ageing and growing population and the increasing healthcare demands there are some things that can be implemented to help delay these increasing burdens. To achieve this, there needs to be increased public health education and support around alcohol and smoking, better nutrition, and improved physical health and fitness. This would reduce the risk factors that contribute to conditions such as heart disease and dementia. There also needs to be improved support for people living with disabilities and long-term conditions.
A survey showed that in 2018 15.3% of GP positions were not filled, meaning that the existing GPs were stretched across more patients than usual. The UK needs 3,4000 new GPs to keep up with population growth and these roles need to be filled quickly in order to manage this growth efficiently.
Primary Care Issues
Patient wait times are longer, along with fewer GPs available, these all have a negative impact on the NHS as a whole. The average member of the public sees a GP six times per year. Some of these appointments are for things which don’t require a GP and could be dealt with by other healthcare professionals and services.
One of the biggest solutions is to hire more GPs, but it isn’t that simple. Medical students are being encouraged to consider this career path in a few ways and are trying to correct misconceptions about general practice and encourage more students to think about the role.
Have you had a recent experience in healthcare? Was it good or bad?