NHS reforms to tackle rise in long-term health problems

The NHS will have to cope with a 252% increase in people aged 65 and over by 2050, while almost one in three of the population will have a long-term health condition such as asthma, heart and lung disease, arthritis, hypertension and diabetes, the Government has warned.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has warned of a public health “ticking time bomb” as a justification of his radical reforms of the NHS, which will see a large chunk of the commissioning budget passed over to GPs.

But the implications for employers and the workplace from this health and demographic shift, compounded by poor pension provision forcing people potentially to have to work for longer, could also be immense.

The 15 million people with long-term conditions will want a different approach to how they are cared for, with the emphasis being on care based at home, in the community or the workplace, with patients having and demanding more say in the care they get and the way it is delivered, said Lansley.

The NHS will need to offer more support for self-care, for example, providing asthmatics with technology they can use at home to check their lung function, or offering people the option to self-manage their own clotting therapy, he argued.

There will be greater use of tele­health and telecare technology as well as more collaborative working, with healthcare professionals focusing on the overall health and wellbeing of the patient rather than just managing one of their conditions, said Lansley.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to our health – particularly for those who have a number of different conditions. The modernised NHS will see local health experts in charge of commissioning services,” he said.

“They will have the power and the budget to put the overall health of their patient first – rather than having to pigeon-hole people by individual illnesses,” he added.

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