Suffolk: Concern over how county will cope with effects of population rise

A population rise could put extra strain on the NHS according to local authorities

A population rise could put extra strain on the NHS according to local authorities - Credit: Archant

A huge rise in population in parts of Suffolk could put extra strain on the healthcare system, stretch public services and affect elderly and social services, it is feared.

New government data has shown the population in Forest Heath will increase by 13.9% between 2011 and 2021, from 60,000 to 68,400 – more than double the rate of 6.9% seen over the previous 10 years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) research also said the population will surge by 10% in Suffolk Coastal to 137,100 - an increase from the previous 8.1% rise witnessed over the previous decade.

In Waveney it will increase by 5.2% to 121,400, compared to the previous 2.5% rise.

The disclosure prompted claims authorities should press the government for new investments in health and social care while council leaders pledged to focus future policies on high population growth to meet increasing demands and living needs.

The dramatic upward revision in population was explained by an increasing amount of people choosing to live in more desirable areas, with a rising birth rate and an ageing population also fuelling the growth.

Warwick Hirst, cabinet member for health, leisure and culture at Forest Heath District Council, said: “The question is ‘how will we cope?’ It will increase demands for health services. We cannot get away from that.

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“The main impact will be on younger families, children services and maternity wards and caring for older people. We have to find ways to tackle loneliness and improve companionship.

“The council and the district CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) will have to put forward demands to the government because the reality is more money will be needed.

“We are all cutting costs. It is a genuine requirement.”

David Bowman, Forest Heath’s cabinet member for economic development and tourism, warned the district could be “swamped” by future residents.

But Forest Heath leader James Waters said the benefits of a rising population outweighed the drawbacks. He described the forecast as “encouraging” and insisted the authority is “up for the challenge”.

He said: “I am not a defeatist. We will deliver the same public services in a different way that is more cost effective, through better broadband and linking services together.”

Suffolk Coastal District Council leader Ray Herring said a “high quality of life and environment” as well as business opportunities were proving attractive to housebuyers.

“We have to accept there will be pressures and extra demand on public services, such as caring for the older generation, housing, health and social services,” he said.

“But our National Planning Policy Framework plans for a 15-year period and will continue to manage a rising population.”

Today’s fresh research has also said the rate of the population growth in Ipswich will fall from 14.1% to 6.9% over the next decade.

It will decrease by nearly a third in St Edmundsbury and will slow down by around 1.5% in Babergh and Mid Suffolk.

Waveney District Council (WDC) leader Colin Law said: “Population growth is something that we cannot ignore and our business plan acknowledges the impact this will have on resources already stretched by cuts to council funding.

“However, we are an innovative council committed to delivering the best possible services to all our communities.”

A spokesman for the NHS West Suffolk CCG said: “We have already developed strategies which will help us deliver the right healthcare in the future, in particular focusing on age-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease and dementia, which will see a big increase in the future.”

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