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Addressing an Age-Old Dilemma

Data recently released by Humber Health Partnership shows that hospital admission rates for the over 75s have nearly doubled in the last two decades. Perhaps more worryingly, the growing number of over 75s in our population is predicted to more than treble over the next two decades. This exponential growth will inarguably increase the pressure on the groaning NHS, but what are we doing about it?

According to an article in The Lancet, the UK is falling behind in addressing the challenges created by these changing demographics. Specifically, the article outlines the need for an increased focus on health promotion and disease prevention as priorities. Perhaps an obvious move would be, as the article suggests, to expand the healthcare workforce, and invest in training and recruitment of surgeons, anaesthetists and other critical members of the surgical team. The burden on surgeons, the surgical team, operating theatres, resources and beds is not going away without an expanded workforce, and certainly not when that burden is only going to get weightier as time goes on.

In response to these mounting challenges, it is important to not only acknowledge the need for immediate action but also commit to sustainable, long-term solutions. The current prediction of hospital admissions and demographic projections is a concern that must be prioritised when planning investment, and this investment must start today. Delaying changes jeopardises our ability to maintain the high standards of care that patients rightfully expect from the NHS. Why wait until we are breaking before making ourselves stronger?

We must not forget that as a population ages, it does not necessarily get healthier. The increased complexities of surgery on an ageing population often living with age-related co-morbidities adds even more weight to the system straining at the seams. Not forgetting longer recovery times and more intensive post-operative care.

The NHS urgently needs investment. That investment must be used to create a vastly improved infrastructure and to recruit and train a larger, robust workforce. Furthermore, training programmes will need to incorporate a focus on geriatric surgery, as well as advanced surgical techniques that improve efficiency and outcomes. These measures will ensure our NHS will be able to provide a service we can feel proud of, in spite of increasing pressures.

CBS president, Mark Henley, says:

"In facing the challenges of an ageing population, the Confederation of British Surgery stands firm in advocating for policies that prioritise investment in surgical care and healthcare as a whole. By adapting strategically and investing wisely, we can ensure that our surgical teams have the resources and support needed to deliver exemplary care to all patients, now and in the future."


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