‘Bold action’ needed to prepare UK for ageing population

The UK is facing a rapidly ageing population. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
The UK is facing a rapidly ageing population. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
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ELDERLY people, the disabled and their carers will “bear the brunt” of growing pressures on health and social care unless “bold” action is taken, David Cameron has been warned.

Leading charities have called on the Prime Minister to meet head on the challenges posed by an ageing society and an underfunded care system by establishing a cross-party commission to review the health and social care. system.

A letter signed by almost 40 organisations, including older people’s charity Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie, warns there is “no room for complacency” and amid “monumental demographic challenges” posed by estimates that suggest nearly a quarter of the population will be over the age of 65 in just over 20 years’ time.

The letter states: “We need to ensure we have an NHS and social care system that is fit for purpose otherwise it is the elderly, disabled people and their carers who will bear the brunt of inaction.

“Bold long term thinking is required about the size, shape and scope of services we want the NHS and social care to provide - and an honest debate about how much as a society we are prepared to pay for them.”

It comes after former coalition health minister Norman Lamb warned some experts believe there will be a £30 billion “gap” in NHS funding by 2020 despite the Government already committing extra cash.

Backed by former health secretaries Stephen Dorrell and Alan Milburn, Mr Lamb has put forward proposals for an independent commission to review the future of the NHS and social care.

Simon Bottery, policy director at Independent Age, said: “Without a robust health and care service that delivers for older people when they need it, the UK will never be truly prepared for ageing.

“A commission on the future of health and social care is the vital first move towards recognising that the health and care systems cannot work in isolation - only when they work effectively together can the needs of older people be met.

“This is a conversation we cannot avoid if we are truly committed to ensuring older people have the quality of life they deserve. We urge the Prime Minister to back this commission.”

David Sinclair, director of think tank the International Longevity Centre, which examines ageing and population, said: “The UK is facing dramatic demographic change - in the next 20 years the number of people aged 85 and older will more than double to over three million.

“It is crucial that we are prepared for that change. We need to start talking now, honestly and openly, about what standards of health and care older people can expect now and in the future.”

The ageing population is expected to have a profound impact in Yorkshire, with North Yorkshire set to see the number of people aged over 85, who have the greatest need of care services, forecast to rise from 17,400 in 2011 to 37,500 by 2030, an increase of 116 per cent.

Last month the leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Judith Blake, warned that new council powers to raise money to pay for social care will not be enough to cover the rising costs of looking after the elderly.

A Department of Health spokesperson said it was “absolutely committed” to its future and are investing £10bn over the next 5 years.