Accessible hubs offering a wide range of health and care services are a fantastic asset for local communities. And a recent report shows that they will be required more than ever.
Analysis by the Health Foundation in July 2023 (read report here), part of a four-year project in partnership with the University of Liverpool, found that 9.1 million people will be living with major illness by 2040, 2.5 million more than in 2019.
It finds that 19 of the 20 health conditions studied are projected to increase in prevalence, including a rise of more than 30% in conditions such as cancer, diabetes and kidney disease. Overall, the number of people living with major disease is set to increase from almost 1 in 6 of the adult population in 2019, to nearly 1 in 5 by 2040, with significant implications for the NHS, other public services and the public finances.
Big changes in care provision
The challenges of improving care for an ageing population and enabling people to live independent lives for longer point to big changes in how care should be delivered in future.
Much of the projected growth in illness relates to conditions such as anxiety and depression, chronic pain and diabetes, which are predominantly managed outside hospitals in primary care and the community. This reinforces the need for investment in general practice and community-based services, focusing on prevention and early intervention to reduce the impact of illness and improve the quality of people’s lives.
The analysis finds that 80% of the projected increase in major illness (2 million people) will be among people aged 70 and over, with the remaining 20 per cent (500,000 people) among the working-age population (20-69 years old). It also projects that improvements in some of the main causes of poor health, such as fewer people smoking and lower cholesterol rates, will be offset by the impact of obesity as many people who have been obese for long periods of their lives reach old age.
The report says there is no silver bullet to reduce the growth in people living with major illness and that supporting people to live well with illness will increasingly be an essential function of health care and other services in the future. Its findings underline the need for a long-term plan to reform, modernise and invest in the NHS alongside a bold, new approach that invests in the nation’s health and wellbeing.
Plan for the future
Modern facilities can expand and grow as needs and demands change provide people with better and more comprehensive care under one roof. This includes providing diagnosis for medical conditions and providing a quick and accessible point for people to use within a local environment.
They also mean many services can be delivered much closer to home, reducing the need to travel some distance for appointments, such as to hospitals.
Tessa Jowell Health Centre
Along with GP services, high quality healthcare hubs can provide a whole range of services, from diagnostics and minor surgery to physiotherapy, mental health support and social prescribing.
With options such as space for delivering skills and development training for healthcare professionals and for incorporating a pharmacy, they help generate greater local health and wellbeing, attract professionals to work there and improve staff retention.
Brooklands Health Centre in Milton Keynes
When built to high sustainability standards, hubs can also have very low energy needs, making them cost-efficient to run as well as playing their part in local carbon reduction aims.