Professor Haslam warned that since the NHS’ founding nearly seventy years ago, the world has changed beyond recognition, and health and social care services now need to face up to very different challenges.
“We live longer. Now we often live with complex health issues as we age, many of them caused by the way we live:
- One in five adults smokes.
- A third of us drink too much alcohol.
- Just under two thirds of us are overweight or obese.
- We are not active enough and our diets are laden with sugar, salt and fat.
“So living longer does not stop the ageing process. Many of us as we get older will be treated for hypertension as our blood vessels and heart muscle begin to stiffen, our bones become weaker – leading to osteoarthritis, we can struggle to eat because of difficulty swallowing and tooth loss, we suffer memory problems, develop dementia, diabetes, cataracts, need joint transplants.
“People working in the frontline of health and social care often see patients with several of these diseases of ageing. And this multimorbidity is not confined to the old – it is prevalent among younger people who eat too much, exercise too little, have poor diets, drink too much and smoke. They may also have depression.
“Next year NICE will publish a clinical guideline that considers the assessment and management of multimorbidity. As a GP, I consider this issue to be hugely important for the NHS and the people whose lives it seeks to improve.
“Effective management of obesity, lipid levels and blood pressure, as well as helping people to stop smoking, drink less or become more active, can make a very real difference to preventing heart disease and stroke.
“So we can help people live longer, with less disability.”