THE NHS needs to change and can no longer rely on the status quo, a Government minister told health chiefs during a visit to Worcester.

Care minister Norman Lamb’s visit came just weeks after he chose Worcestershire as one of just 14 national pioneer areas to “blaze a trail for change” in the NHS and the way care is delivered.

The focus of Worcestershire’s Well Connected programme and Mr Lamb’s national project is on NHS and social care organisations working closer together to deliver more ‘joined up’ care – and ultimately relieve pressure on hospitals by keeping people away from A&E.

With an ageing population causing huge challenges to the health sector and the number of people living to 85 expected to double by 2030, Mr Lamb told your Worcester News it is essential there is transformation in the NHS.

Although by his own admission previous attempts at delivering integrated care have not always been successful, the Lib Dem minister said shying away from change is not an option.

“As a Government we have chosen to protect funding for the NHS throughout this parliament,” he said. “But if the cost of delivery is going up by four per cent every year, which is what is happening, we have to find ways of making the money go further. That is what is happening now. There is an imperative for change.

“The fact that there were 99 areas like Worcestershire bidding to become pioneers shows there is an enormous pent-up energy out there for doing something different.”

And he gave assurances that patients as well as the system will benefit.

“We have a massive challenge with an ageing population,” he said. “Part of the answer is being much better at preventing ill health.

“If we manage people’s care better and help them manage their own conditions then we will reduce the number of people in hospital because things have gone wrong. “They end up with a better life and we also save the system a lot of money.”

The pioneers for integrated care have been named ahead of the introduction of a new £3.8 billion government ‘Better Care Fund” dedicated to integrated care in 2015/16.