Baby boom surge puts strain on city services

The baby boom is putting services under strain. Picture: Getty
The baby boom is putting services under strain. Picture: Getty
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Medical services, schools and housing are facing unprecedented strain as the Capital’s baby boom surges to new highs.

Fresh projections based on National Records of Scotland data from 2012 show the number of births in Edinburgh is expected to be far higher than previously thought, soaring to 6000 a year in 2022 and remaining at that level until 2037.

This compares with 2010 estimates, which predicted births would peak at nearly 5600 next year before falling back to just under 4900 in 2032.

Schools, hospitals and housing estates – many already facing acute accommodation and demand pressures – are bracing themselves for a future influx of tens of thousands of extra children.

Worried doctors warned primary care across the Capital was at “crisis point” and urged NHS chiefs to consider raising budgetary spend in light of the new figures.

Dr John Budd, a GP at Edinburgh Access Practice and chair of the Deprivation Interest Group, said population growth in Edinburgh over the last decade suggested around ten new surgeries should have been established by 2014 to maintain existing service levels.

He said: “As of June, a quarter of Lothians practices were no longer registering new patients or were only registering very limited numbers.

“There are huge resource implications – anything that increases the workload for GPs is only going to deepen the crisis.”

Health board chiefs said they were fully aware of the baby boom and had developed a range of strategies aimed at supporting essential medical services.

Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian, said: “We have always predicted a rise in the numbers of babies being born in Lothian at each of our maternity units at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and St John’s Hospital and planned ahead accordingly. This includes our current review of midwifery services and recruiting more midwives.”

He said birth rate increases of 11 per cent had been seen as far back as 2007, when nearly 9500 babies were delivered at the Royal Infirmary and St John’s.

“As a result, we published our maternity strategy which outlined our vision for the years ahead,” he said.

“We then went on to create the Birth Centre at the ERI and upgrade maternity services at St John’s Hospital to ensure we can continue to meet increasing demand.”

The impact of rising birth rates will also be felt in overcrowded primary schools, with city bosses estimating rolls could jump more than a quarter from around 28,000 currently to 35,400 by 2030.

And they have admitted the surge will result in a need for teaching space over and above that being created through the current rising rolls building programme.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “We’ve provided a guarantee to parents that we will provide space within local catchment schools.

“We will continue to do that and we’ll continue to cooperate with parents and the school community in providing solutions.

“We’re not being alarmist about this – [these figures are] for some time in the future. But we will need considerably more physical space.”

Warning that the additional pressure would soon hit Edinburgh’s secondary schools, he added: “Overall, there’s a recognition that we will need to provide additional capacity within the school estate.

“We have a statutory responsibility to provide a service and we’re committed to providing that.”

ANALYSIS

By Vaughan Hart, Managing director, Scottish Building Federation

THERE are signs that the number of new homes being built across Scotland is starting to rise following five years and more of consistent decline.

Encourag-ingly, the pace of recovery in housebuilding in Edinburgh is also outstripping the country as a whole. But this latest evidence lends further weight to the argument that we need to be building far more homes than we currently are.

As Scotland’s capital, the pressure for increased housing supply is particularly acute here in Edinburgh.

We need to see continued efforts to prioritise investment, to streamline planning processes and to tackle growing skills shortages in construction alongside some of the other financial and regulatory barriers that can hamper delivery of the housing the city so urgently needs.