Population Matters

NHS fails to adapt to population growth

NHS fails to adapt to population growth

The new Chief Inspector of Hospitals in England has concluded that the NHS has not adapted to cope with the growth in population and is therefore “not fit for the 21st Century”.

Lacking investment and failing to modernise

According to Professor Ted Baker, who began his appointed role last month, the UK’s National Health Service has failed to modernise because of historic lack of investment. In an interview with The Telegraph, Prof Baker stated: “The model of care we have got is still the model we had in the 1960s and 70s.”

As a former hospital medical director, Prof Baker also noted that: “The one thing I regret is that 15 or 20 years ago, when we could see the change in the population, the NHS did not change it’s model of care.”

His comments resonate with other recent reviews of service provision in the NHS. Just last month, a study by health charities the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust noted:

“Arguably, NHS hospitals have never been under greater strain than they are today. Population growth, combined with an increasing proportion of older people more likely to need health care, is driving greater demand for NHS hospital treatment – from A&E attendances and emergency admissions to referrals, outpatient services, diagnostic tests and elective admissions.”

Both Prof Baker and the NHS hospital bed numbers report identify multiple factors as contributing to the challenges faced by the NHS, including reduced funding relative to demand and other government policies.

Steady population increase

In the last three decades, the population has risen by nearly 16%, while the number of pensioners has risen by more than one third. Increasing numbers of people are living longer, adding to the pressures put on the NHS.

Source: Office for National Statistics


Prof Baker commented “Capacity is being squeezed all the time. That is a real concern going forward because there comes a point at which the capacity isn’t there”.

From challenge to opportunity

At Population Matters, we recognise the concerns over an ageing population, especially when it comes to services and healthcare. Yet we believe that any solution which involves boosting the numbers of young people simply postpones the problem and makes it even more difficult to address in the future.

It is important that we also recognise the opportunities of an ageing population and find new ways to ensure older people can continue to contribute and participate in economic and social life to the full extent they choose.

For more information about ageing populations, visit here.

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