Essex County Council commission warns of social care crisis

Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett The report, published by Dr Paul Probert (l) and Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett, suggests the number of people in Essex needing social care will rise from 35,000 to 137,500, by 2030

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A "serious crisis" in health and social care is looming in Essex unless action is taken to meet the needs of a growing elderly population, a report says.

According to Essex County Council, there will be a 68% rise in the number of over-85s in the next 15 years.

The authority set up an independent commission to assess how to deal with the issue.

Now, the commission's report concludes the "system as it currently stands is not sustainable".

Sir Tom Hughes-Hallett, chairman of the Who Will Care? Commission, said the only way of averting a crisis was for people to depend on the state less and for individuals and the voluntary sector to be more involved in health.

The future of healthcare in Essex

  • The number of people in Essex needing social care support is expected to grow from 35,000 now to more than 137,500 by 2030
  • There are up to 4,000 people in Essex with a severe learning disability. This number is increasing
  • Essex is home to about 300,000 over-65s and 36,000 over-85s
  • More than £310m is currently spent each year on older people's social care, £1.3bn on general and acute hospitals and £249m on GP services

"The wheels really could come off the tracks," said Sir Tom, who co-authored the report with Dr Paul Probert.

"We do face a crisis here, a very serious crisis.

"There's going to be an ever-increasing demand for services. We are constantly told that healthcare is free at the point of delivery.

"We the citizens have come to expect the NHS to deliver everything. That's simply not realistic."

Sir Tom said the NHS was founded to provide the basics of care but over the years service provision has steadily grown.

"We seem to have given responsibility for our bodies to somebody else, and it is potty," he said.

"We've got to take back ownership of our own care."

Outlining the commission's recommendations, Sir Tom said the public sector must provide "core services", while individuals need to take better care of themselves.

In addition, he said Essex needed a larger voluntary sector, better use of available health data and clear leadership among those involved in health and social care.

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