Thursday, 28 April 2011

Healthcare challenges 30 years on

Royal Wedding preparations and hype are reaching fever pitch here as street party and private celebrations are in the final planning stage. I have the champagne on ice, have recovered from the fact that all major supermarkets have sold out of smoked salmon and am, as usual, struggling with the bunting. This is an occupational hazard when you are only five foot three inches tall and live in a very old house with very high ceilings!

As I pause from labouring in the kitchen, I have started to reflect on life when the last major Royal nuptials took place, Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981.

In those days I worked for an independent hospital chain, who had recently invested in a maternity facility in Windsor in the hope that any Royal offspring would be born there. One can imagine how disappointed they were when a year later, William was born in an NHS hospital in London.

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, of course so much has changed in those 30 years. In 1981 there was, I think, one MRI scanner in the UK. Fast forward a generation and over 1 million MRI’s are undertaken every year in the UK.

Twice as many people can now expect to live till they are 85 but half as many will die from coronary heart disease.

Five times as many are now obese but there are 30% less smokers. Male obese smokers are still at a high risk of having a stroke but the death rate from stroke has reduced from 120/100,000 per population to 22/100,000.

And so the healthcare merry-go-round goes on. We win one battle, another rears it’s ugly head. As we improve survival rates from coronary diseases and stroke, we face chronic disease caused by unhealthy lifestyles.

We still face the same challenges – expensive innovations that increase survival rates and improve the quality of life, the costs and logistics of delivering care and the sustainability of any solution.

Two other things haven’t changed since 1981. There is a massive team of dedicated doctors, nurses, carers, therapists and let’s not forget some managers too – all working through the bank holiday to deliver excellent care in hospitals and the community throughout the UK. And please spare a thought for the London A & E departments and emergency services. coping with a huge influx of visitors to the capital.

The other? My party will start early and end late – just like 1981.


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