One of the key challenges we face locally, with a rising birth rate and an ageing population, is to tailor local health services to the specific needs of our community. In cash terms, this government has increased funding for the NHS by almost £13billion since 2010. More operations are being delivered, and waiting lists are down. Nationwide, there are 17,200 more clinical staff, and 20,200 fewer administrators. With 1,000 more GPs, we’ve seen 40 million more appointments each year at local doctor’s surgeries.
Yes, we still face major challenges – from an ageing population to the rising cost of drugs and technology. But, most people feel increasingly confident about the NHS: the British Social Attitudes Survey recently found public satisfaction in the NHS had risen to 65%, a 30 year high. So, what is happening locally across Elmbridge? Since 2013, we have had two local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) charged with prioritising according to local needs. I met up recently with the Elmbridge lead for the Surrey Downs CCG. I was briefed on the successes in setting up diabetes clinics at local doctors’ surgeries. The numbers waiting longer than a month for mental health related counselling have been cut. A new dementia screening service has won plaudits for its approach to early diagnosis and treatment. Molesey hospital is being used as a hub for providing care in the community for elderly patients, and there are plans to provide more weekend GP appointments locally.
For the future, the CCG are bidding to deliver cross-community GP services to ease pressure on local practices, provide more ‘out of hours’ access, and offer additional services out of local practices – from blood tests to electrocardiograms (heart check-ups). There are also plans to run an early evening paediatric clinic for children – good news for working parents. This is all important progress. In addition, there is underway a review of our various community hospitals – including in Molesey, Thames Ditton, Cobham and Walton, to assess what value they can provide in terms of providing certain particular services closer to home. I attended a public consultation at Esher civic centre, and argued for a long-term strategic approach to be taken. That should involve using the facilities we already have to provide certain cross-community services most in demand. That would strengthen patient care, whilst diverting patients from our major local hospitals, which we know are under pressure.
There is widespread recognition that, as our society changes, we will need to deliver health care in a different way. Investment is obviously an important part of all this. But, equally, we need to deliver more healthcare in the community. From caring for the elderly to extra services for working families, recent developments in Elmbridge are positive steps in the right direction.
Out in the back of an ambulance with local paramedics.