Last week I explained that GPs do, in fact, do all sorts of work to benefit patients even when they’re not in surgery, and this week we’ve got some evidence that our efforts are paying dividends.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released some analysis which shows that people in the UK are living in good health for longer. Healthy life expectancy (HLE) has increased by more than two years during 2008-10 (compared with 2005-07). The ONS figures also show that more than four-fifths of a lifetime in the UK is spent in good health from birth.
Now, I know we can often make statistics say what we want, but two things are very clear to me: many of us are living longer, healthier lives and this fact must, in part, be related to improving health care.
The NHS emphasis on promoting healthy lifestyles over the past 15 to 20 years is now starting to show returns and should continue to have an effect on people’s wellbeing for years to come. Then there’s the constant campaigning to encourage patients to seek advice sooner rather than later if they have a health concern. Well-managed long term conditions and swift intervention with diseases like cancer will have a direct impact on quality of life and life expectancy.
Health and wellbeing is a partnership: if patients invest in themselves by living healthier lives (simple things like stopping smoking, watching their weight and doing a bit of exercise) the NHS can provide the right care and support – in the right place – when its needed.
Appropriate care which gives the best clinical outcomes is a crucial part of the changing health landscape. The NHS needs to do things differently if patients are to get the best treatment. This means more care closer to home – why should patients have the inconvenience of a trip to a hospital outpatient department when the care they needs can be delivered in their local community? It also means specialising – and this is a debate we’re going to have to have as the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust investigates how it can improve its services and remain financially viable.
Specialising is about developing clinical expertise which benefits a wide geographical area. That means people get access to the best consultants and surgeons who keep their skills and knowledge sharp by working with a constant flow of patients. It’s a great idea, but it can only be achieved if these specialists – and the expensive equipment they depend on – are located at one place. This means that some patients need to travel to access those services.
We’re seeing that beginning to happen locally with Mid Yorkshire Hospitals’ plans for revamping its Ophthalmology, Orthopaedic and Neurological Rehabilitation services. The future debate about the Trust’s services will be full of similar scenarios. There’ll be more about that in future blogs I’m sure.
For now, if you want to know more about the ONS statistics which prompted this week’s blog, here’s the link.