Growing population will county’s resources and put a strain on infrastructure
With a growing population, Bucks will need an overhaul of frontline services to cope with changing demands. JO-ANNE ROWNEY takes a look into the future
EXPERTS predict Buckinghamshire’s population could reach 546,933 by 2021 and 582,760 by 2031. This may not sound like much of an increase but when you factor in what those 66,664 need in terms of healthcare and the strain it puts on the county’s infrastructure, the question has to be asked – what are we doing to prepare for this?
Looking at the statistics, it is hard not to be pessimistic.
Young people are leaving the county, searching for jobs elsewhere and leaving behind a smaller work force.
People of working age made up 62.4 per cent of Buckinghamshire’s population in 2012. This is projected to fall to 59.3 per cent in 2021 and 56.5 per cent in 2031.
In 10 years, Buckinghamshire is expected to have the largest increase among people in their 70s, with an extra 12,620 people by 2021, ahead of those in their 50s (10,346) and 80s (5,986).
The number of people in their 40s and 20s is predicted to fall by 7,920 and 755 respectively.
The increase in people in their 50s will mean this cohort could become the most populous in Buckinghamshire, even ahead of children aged under 10.
Compare this to the figures from across England, where the largest group in 2021 will be people in their 30s, only the fifth most common in Buckinghamshire, and a problem starts to appear.
Chesham Over 50s Positive Action Group (COPAG), sees problems first hand.
Chairman Barbara Richardson says the rise in the number of elderly means something has to be done regarding the issues Bucks has faced in terms of health for years.
“Transport, in terms of getting to hospital and about, especially for the less mobile, the disabled is the first issue,” she says. “The second is GP surgeries, being able to get an appointment and to be seen, these days you can wait weeks when you ring up and that’s with the amount of elderly we have now.
“We speak about these issues, and have done for years and years, but it feels like we go around in circles.
“We hear how there are more elderly, but it seems no action is taken.”
The county council set up Prevention Matters, aiming to help more people become independent and act before health issues become critical.
The council has set aside £4million for the scheme, with a centre set up in Chesham, but Mrs Richardson says she feels this is still a case of ‘talk and not much action’.
“I understand they are doing something,” she
said, “but I feel often we hear a lot of talk from executives yet nothing to show for it.
“The scheme is trying to get us to help ourselves, we get told there’s no money, but what about these others issues, transport, GPs? There’s no need for more schemes, we have to deal with these first. With more and more elderly if we don’t act now we will regret it.”
In Bucks 84,000 people are above 65 (16 per cent) and this is expected to increase by 36 per cent by 2025. There are 11,000 people over 85, rising by 84 per cent by 2025.
Patricia Birchley, cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Buckinghamshire County Council, said: “The real key is making sure older people know about the services we have, that’s the challenge we face. Communities can help by sharing the news, and churches and councils giving out leaflets.
“We are helping those people on the cusp of needing our services, the longer we can delay them needing expensive medical care the better. There are already community schemes, like Cholesbury where people drive those who can’t drive to events, and dial-a-ride. It’s using those volunteers. We already have a Volunteer Hub that we can harness.”
As the elderly population rises, Bucks’ youth are leaving.
Despite the great education system, it appears young people disappear off to university never to return, instead turning to the bright lights of London.
But can something be done to change this?
Ashleigh Davies is a music college student who is set to work for Avid, in Pinewood Studios.
She was given the chance after her tutor at Amersham and Wycombe College – where she studied music and sound production – was contacted by Avid, who wanted students for a year’s placement.
Ashleigh, 20, said creating opportunities like this is the way to keep the skill set in Bucks.
Miss Davies said: “I believe 100 per cent that this is the case. If I’m going to be doing something I want to do, and I can get a position here, of course I’ll stay. I won’t move out of Bucks. Places like Pinewood have been good at this, providing these chances, and businesses like Avid. It’s not only them, but more could do this.”
Ben Woodward, of Chartridge, works in High Wycombe. He said: “University wasn’t for me and I always wanted to stay local. I don’t see why people want to go to London, travel is terrible and takes up so much of the day.
“I know people think it’s lucrative but there’s the cost.”
The county council’s deputy for education Bill Bendyshe-Brown spoke about his wish to draw more people back to Bucks when he was appointed, using work experience, traineeships, or apprenticeships.
“We’re working with Bucks Business First, Connexions and trying to get schools to give pupils the chance for more careers advice.
“It’s my job to make sure schools put the pupils first and meet their skill needs.
“The council’s role is not one as a dictator but as a persuader.”
So it’s not all gloom and doom then?
“I think this is something we can change,” he added.
“It doesn’t have to be the case that London takes all the skill set, we are making changes in Bucks.”
PREVENTION MATTERS: Cabinet member for health and wellbeing Patricia Birchley
NOT ALL GLOOM: County council deputy for education Bill Bendyshe-Brown and below, sound production student Ashleigh Davies who will be working at Pinewood Studios