26 Nov 2012
Twice the number of hospital beds will be needed over the next two decades to cope with Scotland’s ageing population, it has been warned.
Health boards have also said focus on preventative measures and early years care will suffer as a result of more money being spent on caring for the elderly.
Local authorities and health boards have submitted evidence to Holyrood’s finance committee as part of a debate on how Scotland can better prepare for demographic challenges.
Edinburgh City Council said while extra Scottish Government cash through the Change Fund would go some way to helping cope with the timebomb, the money was “very unlikely to address it in full, let alone reverse it”.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Scotland’s largest health board, warned “immediate pressures of demographic change will make it difficult to fund and support other priority areas with longer term benefit” and that preventative spend and early years intervention would be the areas to suffer.
Bosses there said that the area’s ageing population meant “it is unlikely we can realise aspirations to shift resource to preventative spend and early years”.
And NHS Ayrshire and Arran added if hospitals continue to admit people aged 75 and over at current rates, “we will need twice as many hospital beds in 20 years’ time”.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman and deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said:
“Warnings about demographic challenges from those on our frontline seem to be becoming more grave by the month.
“There is a massive train coming down the tracks and our health services are not ready for it.
“If something isn’t done, we will be left in a situation where our NHS boards are only firefighting, meaning funding will be taken away from all kinds of important challenges.
“The Scottish Government needs to act now to alleviate this pressure in future years.
“Hospitals are already running under extremely strained circumstances, and that will only intensify as more people are admitted.
“This is why the SNP’s decision to slash nursing numbers and reduce the number of nursing and midwife students is so baffling
“The Scottish Conservatives would increase the focus on preventative health policy, allowing workers such as health visitors to play a much more important role.
“At the same time, individuals have to have a sense of responsibility for their own health – this is not something that can be put squarely at the door of the Scottish Government and NHS.”