Norfolk is at the centre of a national ageing crisis and urgently needs more healthcare, Prof Sir Chris Whitty has warned.

And England’s chief medical officer has singled out North Norfolk, which is home to the oldest population in England and Wales, with a third of its population over 65.

The area has the highest proportion of people over 85 in the country, and the average age of residents is 54 years old – 14 years higher than the national average of 40.

Now, Sir Chris has said in his annual report that healthcare must step in to help older people in north Norfolk, which is “ageing rapidly and predictably”.

North Norfolk News: Prof Sir Chris WhittyProf Sir Chris Whitty

Sir Chris's Health in an Ageing Society report says: "The population of Norfolk is ageing rapidly, with the median average age already above the England average.

“In the past decade the proportion of people aged 65 and over has increased, and more than 25pc of the county’s population are now aged over 65 years.

“This trend is expected to continue with projections suggesting that by 2040 we will see an increase of 55pc in people aged 75 and over.

“Most of Norfolk’s population increase will be in the older age groups, with those aged over 65 years increasing by 82,000.”

“North Norfolk has an older population compared to other areas with a third of the population aged over 65 years.”

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In the decade between the last two censuses, in 2011 and 2021, the average age in north Norfolk rose by three years – from 51 to 54.

Due to population growth and an increasing number of people in later life there will be more demand for appointments at doctors, dentists and hospitals, a rise in emergency admissions, and more people living with long-term conditions.

If nothing changes, the demand for appointments across Norfolk and Waveney over the next five years will increase by more than 1,000 per day.

Anneliese Maerz, centre manager at Age Concern North Norfolk, an independent charity based in Sheringham, said the number of people with dementia in Norfolk is set to increase by 55pc by 2040.

“People’s mental health is much worse since the pandemic and we’re seeing a deterioration in dementia,” she said.

“Chronic loneliness has risen by half a million in the UK since 2020. The elderly lose contact with people, which is needed to keep their minds active.

“Some don’t talk to anyone from one week to the next. We deliver hot meals and that could be the only contact they have that day.”

North Norfolk News: Anneliese Maerz, centre manager at Age Concern North Norfolk, an independent charity based in SheringhamAnneliese Maerz, centre manager at Age Concern North Norfolk, an independent charity based in Sheringham (Image: Anneliese Maerz)

Dr Victoria Holliday, vice-chairman of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and a retired GP, said the planned closures of services in the region such as Benjamin Court and Blakeney Surgery is making it harder for elderly people to access healthcare.

“If, as we want, our older adults in north Norfolk will be independent for longer we need to provide easy access to healthcare,” she said.

“This means services have to be provided locally and this is why the community is fighting hard against the closures of much-loved facilities such as Blakeney Surgery and Benjamin Court.”

North Norfolk News: Dr Victoria Holliday, vice-chairman of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC)Dr Victoria Holliday, vice-chairman of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) (Image: NNDC)

Councillor Tim Adams, leader of NNDC, said there has been a “failure” to prepare for north Norfolk’s ageing crisis, with a shortage of carers across the region.

“We’re deeply concerned about how prepared we are to provide important and vital services,” he said.

“I worry about the winter because I don’t think there will be enough care beds available.

“The infrastructure and services in place are not well equipped to deal with the current pressures.

“We’ve had years to build up infrastructure and train social carers. We have to do more to help these people.”

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North Norfolk News: Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC)Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) (Image: NNDC)

Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, said there needs to be "service expansion, not reduction".

"We need to be able to adequately deal with current pressures and the expected increase in demand.

"I think the key factor here is encouraging more healthcare professionals to come to places like north Norfolk. We need to ensure that we have the staff needed to support our older population."

North Norfolk News: Duncan Baker, MP for North NorfolkDuncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk (Image: Supplied)