OXFORDSHIRE’s growing and ageing population is at 'tipping point' with nearly 200,000 extra people predicted in the county by 2030, public health bosses warn.

The county’s director of public health, Dr Jonathan McWilliam, said the way services are run needs to change to prevent a crisis in people’s access to health and social care.

Predictions for the next 15 years show the number of people over the age of 65 will increase by 53 per cent and those over the age of 85 will increase by 96 per cent.

And although the fact that people are living longer 'should be shouted from the rooftops', Dr McWilliam hopes his independent report will be the catalyst for change in the provision of services.

He said: "The biggest challenge is the increase in the number of people in the county and the number of people that will be here in the years to come.

"This issue has been with us for the last decade.

"The problem is this creeps up on us, it happens in slow motion and we do not take notice until we reach this tipping point where older services need to be replaced with new ones."

The tenth annual public health report predicts an additional 183,900 residents will be in the county by 2030.

And the challenge of managing a growing population is made even harder by a raft of other problems, he warns.

Crippling house prices are affecting recruitment in health and social care - a problem which needs to be addressed to cope with the growing demand.

Dr McWilliam said: "It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit the staff we need to fill nursing, caring and ancillary posts.

"In the last few weeks I attended meetings where the hospital and social care services were spelling this out very clearly.

"Some hospital wards are for example reported to be running with 25 per cent vacancies."

Oxford is the least affordable city with house prices being 16.7 times higher than annual earnings, on a par with London, and bosses warn they might need to look beyond the county to towns like High Wycombe to find enough affordable for housing for the influx of extra workers.

Dr McWilliam added: “Other options such as building hostels for workers are also being explored.

"We have identified the problem, we have reached a tipping point and we have to work together to find a solution, even if we do not know exactly what that solution is yet."

Some developments for key worker housing have been proposed, such as 83 homes at William Morris Close in Temple Cowley (see more on the development in page 4), but many more would be needed to cope with the extra demand.

Dr McWilliam is also calling for more joined-up thinking in housing developments, stating that the focus needs to be on how people can live a healthier life in their community.

He added: "The key message is: health is planning and planning is health.

"Of course every development is different, some are large and some are small.

"But there are some basic principals in terms of dementia-friendly streets, cycle and pedestrian lanes that can be carried through all new developments."

In order to tackle the 'whole raft of issues' Dr McWilliam is calling for central government, organisations and residents themselves to come together and work towards an overhaul in the way services are provided.

He added: "We have never been in this situation before, which is why we do not have all the solutions to hand right away.

"But I think we have time for organisations to find out what they need to do, we are recognising and reacting to that tipping point.

"This is all about teamwork from central government, local organisations and individuals themselves.

"The whole point of public health is understanding change in society takes a long time, we are turning the titanic."