Whilst life expectancy is growing for some, it has stalled or is falling for others. People in the most deprived areas develop long-term conditions 10 to 15 years earlier than the general population and those with a Learning Disability or severe mental illness die a decade or more earlier.
For example, people living in the most deprived areas of the South East are 77% more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (lung disease such as bronchitis) than those living in the wealthiest.
When the NHS was created over 70 years ago its main aim was to treat accidents and severe illness that last a short time, but increasingly it also needs to deliver joined-up support for growing numbers of older people and those living with long-term conditions such as COPD.
Tackling health inequalities to prevent people developing long term conditions and making sure that those in old age are able to maintain their health, wellbeing, and independence for as long as possible isn’t something the NHS can do alone. Other partners including Local Government have a role in tackling health inequalities.
As medicine advances, health needs change and society develops, the NHS has to continually move forward. The NHS has an ambitious plan which sets out a vision to:
- Make sure everyone gets the best start in life improving the health of children
- Deliver world class health care for major health problems
- Support people to age well and help them remain independent
- Acting sooner to avoid people developing conditions which are preventable
- Support those with long-term conditions or mental health issues
- Getting the best from collective resources so people get care as quickly as possible.
To achieve this we will need to do things differently by:
- Giving people more control over their own health and the care they receive
- Take action to help people live healthier lifestyles to avoid life limiting disease
- Making better use of data and digital technology to improve people’s care and reducing the need for people to travel – by providing more care remotely or closer to home where it makes sense to do so
- Continue working with doctors and other health professionals to identify ways to reduce duplication in how services are delivered
- Reduce the need for people to access different services from different organisations and, when they do, ensuring care and information are seamless
- Ensure our staff feel supported to deliver the best care they can.