We want to enable local people to live independent lives, supported, when needed, by the best possible care, and to do this we have to make some very important changes.
There is a compelling need for change, driven by the changing needs of our local population. The services we have inherited were not designed to deliver care for the 21st Century. We have new technologies and treatments, but there is too much variation in standards of care, the system of care has become very complex and we are struggling to keep up with the costs. Our past successes mean people are living longer but often with a number of long-term conditions adding complexity to their care needs.
In Devon, we are expected to experience the greatest population growth in the older age groups. 3.5% of the population in Devon is aged 85 and older, compared to 2.4% in England as whole.
There are also health inequalities across Devon, with a woman in Plymouth being expected to die three years earlier than a woman an hour’s drive away in Tiverton. People living in poorer areas not only die sooner, but spend more of their lives with disability – an average total difference of 17 years. We also know that 10% less money is spent on health and social care for each person in West Devon than in North and East Devon, even when age and deprivation are taken into account.
Many people are dealing with complex mental health issues, sometimes alongside a long-term physical health condition. We know that there are people in hospital beds across Devon who would be better cared for elsewhere. As a result, our services are struggling with a combination of ever-rising demand coupled with the financial pressures facing the whole NHS across the country.
We also cannot ignore the fact that the NHS in Devon is spending more money than is available. We know that many people will argue that Devon needs more funding for health and care, but we know that there are areas where we could be more efficient and Devon is already getting slightly more money than its “fair share” when compared with other places, and according to the Government’s national method by which money is allocated.
These pressures are very real, and our nurses, doctors, clinical and support staff work incredibly hard to provide the very best care they can. Their hard work and dedication in caring for our family members, our relatives and friends, day in and day out all year round, is inspirational.
But they cannot simply work harder and harder to keep services going. Change has to happen if we are to maintain the safety and quality of care in future, and we need to address the issues we currently face in a way that will improve outcomes for individuals and the communities we serve, as well as our staff.