We have to take responsibility for our health if we want to live longer - and for the NHS’ sake

Run Norwich 2018. Photo: Antony Kelly

Run Norwich 2018. Photo: Antony Kelly - Credit: Archant

In 20 years time, more of us will suffer from diabetes caused by poor diet and lack of exercise.

Tracy Williams, new chairman of Norwich CCG.

Tracy Williams, new chairman of Norwich CCG. - Credit: Archant

More people are likely to have dementia, heart disease or more breathing illnesses such as asthma and COPD.

We'll live longer, for sure, but more years could be poorly years.

These trends are already being predicted, so can we try to create a different future? Well, we have already started.

As individuals we have all got to take more responsibility for our health and wellbeing, look at how we live, how much alcohol we drink and avoid or quit tobacco. As a community we must tackle the wider determinants of ill health such as loneliness and low incomes.

Our Healthy Norwich partnership with local councils and public health is already working on this.

We want more people to be helped to stay well so they do not need to go to hospital.

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Our GP practices are at the forefront of the NHS and they have joined together in an alliance to deliver things like a home visiting service and evening and weekend appointments.

Our Norwich Escalation Avoidance Team is a partnership of colleagues who rapidly arrange care for people suffering a health crisis to avoid going into hospital. And our community heart failure service supports people to live well and avoid hospital admission where possible.

But we would like to go further and create four neighbourhoods where clusters of practices can work much more closely with community, mental health and social care colleagues, to 'wrap' care and support around people, where they live. It's very early days and there is much thinking to be done, but I would envisage specialist clinics and much more mental health provision in our communities.

This would free up our physical and mental health hospitals to concentrate on the really specialist work they are so good at, harnessing new technology, new treatments and new medicines. Just look at the wonderful new cancer treatments that the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is introducing, for example.

So can we encourage a shift towards people taking greater responsibility for their health, improve their futures and also create capacity in the NHS for when it's really needed? We have to, it is vital. Not just for the NHS, which has many competing demands on its resources, but also for us as individuals who want to live a longer and healthier life.