Living longer raises cost of care

BILLS for rapidly growing numbers of people living longer in Yorkshire with chronic illnesses and disabilities are increasing annually by tens of millions of pounds.

Figures compiled by the Yorkshire Post show more than 250m is spent across the region on continuing care after an average increase of 10 per cent in 2010-11 – double the rate at which overall NHS spending went up.

But there are concerns the NHS will struggle in coming years as total budgets will increase by only two per cent next year despite a continuing upsurge in demand.

Chief among the reasons for the rising costs is the ageing population amid predictions over the next 20 years that numbers of people aged over 90 will nearly treble, while those with learning disabilities will go up by 30 per cent.

Advances in medical care mean people are not only living longer, but living longer with illness and disability.

In 2009-10, numbers of stroke deaths fell by a third in Yorkshire to 1,640 after advances in hospital treatment and drugs, but the dramatic success also generates its own costs as more people survive and live with the consequences.

Similar improvements for youngsters born with profound disabilities mean more are living into adulthood.

Patients with long-term ailments including dementia, Parkinson's and strokes, as well as people with serious disabilities, can access free packages of care funded by the NHS if their main need for care and support relates to their health.

If people are in care homes, the NHS pays the fees but home care may also be funded.

Such care costs vary but can be hugely expensive.

In Rotherham, where continuing care budgets are likely to be 70 per cent overspent by March, about half of patients receive help in their own homes at an average cost of 516 per week which ranges from 39 a week to 4,500.

The cost of continuing healthcare in care homes averages 560 weekly but ranges from 491 to as much as 5,150.