SPECIAL REPORT - Harrogate ‘ageing’ at an alarming rate

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The Harrogate district is facing an ageing population crisis, new figures reveal. As it emerges that up to 40 per cent of residents will be aged over 60 by 2037, RUBY KITCHEN reports.

Daunting new figures released by the Government paint a startling picture for the future of the Harrogate district.

The area’s ageing population - already high compared to much of the country - is set to grow steeply in the next 20 years.

By 2037, the Government predicts, 40 per cent of people living in the Harrogate district will be aged 60 and over - nearly 10,000 more than is currently the case.

“No one service can tackle this alone,” said Netty Newell, of local charity Dementia Forward. “This is everybody’s business.

“We can all play a part. As a generation, we need to tackle this - it’s not going to go away.”

As a generation, we need to tackle this - it’s not going to go away

Netty Newell, Dementia Forward

Measures are being put in place across the Harrogate district by health trusts, care groups, and local charities to tackle the growing issue.

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust is to trial a new scheme allowing for more patients to be treated in their own homes.

Harrogate CCG is stepping up measures to diagnose and intervene earlier with dementia patients, cutting waiting times and keeping people out of a hospital setting.

And a support service was set up by NYCC in October, working with Dementia Forward to offer advice, support and information.

“Dementia, to some, is still a word they have to look up,” said Mrs Newell, who says this is the first step in the right direction. “There’s not enough awareness.

“Twenty years ago, cancer was the ‘C’ word, it just wasn’t talked about. With dementia, it’s getting there. It’s getting better.

“But as a community, the best thing we can do is have an awareness about dementia, and an understanding of how to live with it.”

WHAT IS BEING DONE?

Commissioning care

A dementia support service was set up by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) in October to tackle the issue.

The new dementia navigator service, with Dementia Forward, aims to offer support, advice and information and to help dementia sufferers with independent living.

Support workers from the charities will help people to link with agencies and groups including other people who are living with the condition.

The overall aim of the service is to improve people’s quality of life, promote their independence and help them to plan and to maintain or widen their social networks.

Keeping patients out of hospital

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust is to trial a new scheme to allow for more patients to be treated in their own homes.

The changes would see a 24-hour helpline brought in, community hubs staffed by GPs and nurses, and could see nurses giving IV drips in patients’ living rooms rather than in hospital.

The idea is to cut admissions - an increasing issue with Harrogate’s rising older population.

“The older a person is the more likely they are to have multiple conditions,” said Dr Ros Tolcher, chief executive at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust as the scheme was revealed last month. “The more likely to be admitted to hospital several times, that system is no longer affordable in the long term.

“We want to only admit people to hospital if they really need it and to support them to remain safe and well at home where-ever possible.”

Dementia challenge

“Considerable” work has been carried out in the last three years by the CCG working with local partners, and projects are being stepped up to diagnose dementia and intervene early.

Recent successes include a reduced waiting times for memory clinic appointments from 74 days to 28 days, 15 per cent more people diagnosed and referred for treatment from target practices, and a 50 per cent cut in the time from referral to care starting for patients. People with dementia are also staying in hospital less - reduced from 19 days to 10.7 days.

More is planned - steps are being taken to “move the diagnoses of dementia into the community”, with GPs working with specialist dementia care nurses.

And, says the CCG, it is working to make Harrogate a Dementia Friendly Community, which will remove stigma from the diagnosis and improve the life experiences of all those affected.

‘Services can always be better’

Harrogate GP Rick Sweeney is a member of the CCG governing body and the lead for vulnerable people for the Harrogate and Rural District.

“Because of our relatively elderly population we have over 2,700 people with dementia, which is 650 more than would be expected compared to national averages,” he said.

“Over the next 10 years, as expected life-span continues to increase, the number of people with dementia is expected to increase to over 3,500.

“This causes a considerable challenge to health services and social care, who want to support the best possible care for people with dementia, as well as to their family and carers.”

Considerable work has been carried out locally to improve services over the last three years, he said, but more can be done.

“We are very pleased with the improvements that have resulted from this, but not satisfied,” he said. “Services can always be better and we need to ensure we have services in place for the inevitably increasing need over the next few years.

“Our aim is to provide rapid and easily accessible access to services to diagnostic services at the best time for the person with dementia and their families and carers and long term care and support for everyone affect by dementia.”

The latest figures have been released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Harrogate Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC).