Sue Symington smiling and the text 'As I see it - the latest blog from Sue Symington'

As I see it – the latest blog from Sue Symington

Embracing the Challenges and Opportunities of an Ageing Population

Last month in York, the Humber and North Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership held a symposium to address a topic of significant importance: the implications of an ageing population on our health and care services.

This gathering of key figures from across the region was not merely a discussion; it was a call to action. Recognition of the profound demographic shifts that will shape our future, coupled with a commitment to ensuring that our communities thrive in the face of these changes.

The fact that people in the UK are living longer than ever before is a testament to the progress of modern science and healthcare – including our NHS – however, this longevity also brings new challenges. By 2040, nearly one in seven people will be aged over 75, and nearly one in five adults will be living with a major illness, largely due to our ageing population.

These projections underscore the pressing need for us to rethink how we deliver health and care services – embracing innovation, collaborating and taking a proactive approach to meet the evolving needs of our population.

At the heart of our mission is a commitment to enabling people to lead healthy and independent lives for as long as possible. We recognise that while an ageing population brings challenges, it also brings opportunities for positive change. We must empower our ageing population by equipping them with the necessary skills for a healthy lifestyle and promoting overall health and well-being, by doing this we can create a society where older adults continue to play a vital role in society and contribute meaningfully to their communities.

During the symposium, we had the privilege of hearing from two distinguished keynote speakers who offered invaluable insights into the complex interplay between health, ageing and society. Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, emphasised the importance of delaying and reducing disease, as well as addressing environmental factors to improve and maintain quality of life. His remarks underscored the urgency of taking proactive measures to promote health and well-being into later life.

Similarly, Tina Woods, Founder and CEO of Collider Health, provided thought-provoking perspectives on the interconnectedness of health and the economy. We were challenged us to rethink our approach to healthcare delivery and to prioritise prevention and innovation. Her call for a paradigm shift in how we view and address the health needs of an ageing population resonated with all of us.

As I reflect on the insights shared during the symposium, it is clear that we have a collective responsibility to shape a future where ageing is not synonymous with decline, but rather with vitality, resilience and opportunity. My reflections on this were crystallised last week when I visited the very special Jean Bishop Integrated Care Centre in Hull.

A first of its kind in the UK, patients who are referred to the Centre receive a bespoke care plan following same-day appointments with a range of health and social care professionals. The anticipatory model they have developed aims to take a different approach against the historical background of poor health and social care outcomes of residents with frailty.

More impressive still is that this holistic approach to the health and care of elderly people really works. The measured outcomes show that the Centre has led to reductions in emergency hospital attendances and admissions for patients aged over 80 and patients living in care homes.

Its success is, in part, why we are creating a Frailty Centre of Excellence in Humber and North Yorkshire. It will build on what has been learned from the Jean Bishop Integrated Care Centre, sharing clinical expertise and best practise throughout our region and beyond.

The Centre of Excellence can begin a more equal approach to prevention, identification and management of frailty. It will ensure that no matter where someone lives in Humber and North Yorkshire, they can expect to receive the same high-quality care and treatment. By doing this, we can keep thousands of frail and elderly people fit, out of hospital and living independently at home or in their care setting for longer.

If we are to build a society where people of all ages can thrive, initiatives like this will be key. We can succeed and drive positive change if we continue to work together, pool our resources and harness the power of innovation.