STRUCTURAL changes to the NHS across north Essex are needed to deal with the area’s ageing and increasing population, NHS bosses have claimed.

At a meeting of Colchester Council’s Local Plan committee on Monday Jane Mower, estate development manager for the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, explained its plans to tackle a range of challenges to councillors.

One of the structure changes is a move to the “hub and spoke” model. This means primary care centres supporting populations of between 20,000 and 50,000 residents will be created.

Surgeries in the area will also be encouraged to share expertise in a bid to combat staff recruitment and retention problems.

Ms Mower said: “A care hub does not mean one big building, it might be a number of GP surgeries working together and sharing expertise.

“There isn’t a large number of experts in the medical field coming our way so we need to share the experts we have and look at upskilling our practice based staff.”

Ms Mower told the committee the CCG is expecting the area’s population to increase by 12 per cent by 2035. The new community healthcare centres is one way the CCG was hoping to meet the increased demand.

A number of pilot projects are underway across Colchester and Tendring such as muscular skeletal services being centralised from Abbey Field Medical Centre.

Another change will be the introduction of a new urgent treatment centre in Colchester, which is set to open at the Turner Road hospital in October.

It is hoped this move will stop people attending A&E unnecessarily and free up hospital beds.

Ms Mower said: “We are going to be undertaking a change in our urgent treatment services and we have already started that with the GP out of hours practice now operating under 111.

“It will be very likely that all contact with any urgent treatment service will be through 111 initially whereby a very well trained call centre agent will be able to support the individual to go to the best place for their needs.

“One hundred plus patients in the hospital do not need to be there and we need to ensure there is enough provision for people to be able to go home or to another setting rather than taking up a hospital bed.”