Why do the hospitals need to change?

The NHS is facing the biggest challenge in its history.

The population is ageing – people are living for longer, and the number of people aged 85 years and over is set to double in the next 15 years.  People are living for longer with chronic condition such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory illness.  And our lifestyles are becoming unhealthier due to drinking too much alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise and obesity, which are linked to serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer.  Together these factors have created a significant increase in demand for health care.

Society’s expectations have also increased – people now expect to be able to access the care they need, when they need it.  People should not have to wait a long time to see a consultant, or for treatment.  And evidence shows that patients have better outcomes when they are admitted to hospital during weekdays than at night or weekend, so we need to move towards providing the same high standards of healthcare seven days a week. 

Our health service workforce has changed over time.  Services, and therefore the staff who work in them, have become more specialised.  Where once we had general surgeons, consultants now specialise in particular conditions or areas of the body.  This is fantastic news for patients, as specialisation means consultants have more expertise and experience treating particular conditions - and this has improved survival rates and recovery.  However this increase in specialisation means there is a shortage of staff in some services, which makes it very difficult to staff rotas to deliver specialist care round the clock. 

And specialist doctors need to see and treat a minimum number of patients every week to maintain their skills and expertise, which along with gaps in the workforce, means it is simply no longer possible for every hospital to provide every service, to the right standards required, whatever the time of day.  

The mid Staffordshire review of hospital care, along with guidance from royal colleges and national bodies, means clinical services have to continuously improve to meet increasingly rigorous quality standards.  And services need to adapt so they continue to be effective as the population’s health care needs change and increase.

NHS England recently published a Five Year Forward View to set out what the NHS needs to do to meet these challenges, and remain effective and financially viable.  The Five Year Forward View says the NHS needs to prioritise tackling the causes of ill health, give patients more control over their care, and that the different organisations that provide health and social care need to work together to provide services that are based on the needs of patients.

Here in Lancashire health and social care organisations are working together to improve services.  Together we are developing more services support people to maintain good health and wellbeing, and are providing care in different ways to look after patients in their own homes or in community facilities.  This will better enable hospitals to deliver the care and treatment that only hospitals can. 

At Lancashire Teaching Hospitals we are reviewing our clinical services to make sure we’re providing care and treatment in the most effective way, now and for the future.  We are also planning to modernise our hospital buildings, to better organise our wards and departments and provide care in a modern, fit for purpose environment.