Health system facing 'time bomb'

By Ian Dipple Thursday 06 February 2014 Updated: 06/02 13:08

THE COUNTY'S health and social care system is facing a financial and ageing population time bomb that is about to explode, doctors have warned.

Over the next five years £227million will be taken out of Worcestershire's health and social care system while at the same time demand - particularly from frail, elderly people with complex conditions - is set to rocket.

By 2015/16 the number of people aged over 75 being admitted to hospital is set to increase by 12 per cent or some 1,500 patients. By 2020/21 the figure will have risen by 33 per cent or some 4,500 people, threatening to overwhelm the county's already overstretched A&E departments.

Emergency admissions in Worcestershire have already increased by 35 per cent over the last decade.

The rise also has financial implications as the urgent care system currently costs at least £100million a year and doing nothing would either involve more money being ploughed into Worcestershire's hospitals when funding is failing to keep pace with demand or cutbacks to other services.

In response, the first Worcestershire Urgent Care Strategy has been launched, setting out a series of measures to change the way people are treated including making greater use of NHS 111 and pharmacies so people can self care rather than inappropriately turning up at A&E. More than 27,000 people who attended the county's emergency departments last year could have been treated elsewhere.

Minor Injuries Units will be strengthened to deal with more complex conditions and more people will be treated in their own homes or community hospitals. It is estimated about 20 per cent of all admissions could be dealt with outside of hospital.

The out of hours community team will also be extended to ensure patients can be moved out of hospital effectively once their treatment has finished, with no more than 20 delayed discharges at any one time. Recent research revealed there are 140 people sat in the county's hospitals because of delays moving them to a more appropriate place.

The strategy is currently being approved by various health organisations across the county and more detailed plans will be drawn up in the coming months as to how the strategy will work in reality.

In a stark warning Dr Jonathan Wells, chair of Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG, said: "Without the schemes we are putting in place, without a large scale shift of care out of hospital and into the community we will not be able to survive as a health economy."

Penny Venables, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said the strategy was more important than the reconfiguration of hospital services which had attracted so much attention.

"Everyone thinks hospital is about A&E which is why the JSR (Joint Services Review) has been such a focus but this is much more fundamental than that. It has to be successful. Our ability to do our elective work, our ability to keep the flow through A&E are intrinsically linked to that."

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