Ageing population will have huge impact on social services, Lords told

Committee to report startling findings of wide-ranging investigation into over-65s and implications for British society
Elderly couple dancing
A Lords inquiry has prompted warnings there is no proper plan is in place to cope with the dramatic increase in over-65s.Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Startling details about Britain’s rapidly ageing population and its potential impact on social services have emerged in evidence to a parliamentary inquiry, prompting warnings that no proper plan is in place to cope with the dramatic increase in those aged over 65.
• Half of those born after 2007 can expect to live to over 100.

• Between 2010 and 2030 the number of people aged over 65 will increase by 51%.

• The number of people aged over 85 will double during the same period.

The most dramatic warnings to the Lords committee, which focused on 2020-2030, were for the NHS. Filkin criticises health bosses for not making detailed forecasts, and evidence from experts showed the scale of the crisis facing hospitals, specialist services and care homes.

The Nuffield Trust predicted a 32% increase in elderly people with moderate or severe disability, and a 32%-50% rise in over-65s with chronic diseases. Even assuming “heroic” productivity improvements, the NHS would have a £28bn-£34bn shortfall – a significant proportion of its £110bn annual budget.

Graphic-ageing-population-001In the shorter term, the Department of Health expects the number of elderly people aged over 65 to grow by 51% in the two decades to 2030, and those aged over 85 to rise even more steeply, by 101%.

Throughout the inquiry however, experts have cautioned that the level of certainty about population ageing forecasts drops noticeably with regard to later years.

The problem is not simply one of numbers: experts warned that the NHS was not well set up to help elderly people with long-term and complicated health problems.

“We asked the question: is the system coping with the current level [of health pressures] and the evidence we got is it isn’t,” he said. “[So] how is it going to cope in a near future, seven to 17 years’ time, when we have massively increased demand coming into the system?”

Filkin, a Labour peer, said there needed to be at least a strategy along the lines of those developed for future defence needs, climate change and energy security.

“Given the sort of data given to us in evidence, it’s pretty clear we have major social change coming and we’d expect them [ministers] to have some sort of idea.”

The report will not just draw attention to problems ahead and recommend solutions; other issues it will highlight include pensions, the public cost of rising health and elderly care and pensions, and how to keep more elderly people who want to work in jobs.

“Today’s older people are in the vanguard of an extraordinary revolution in longevity that is radically changing the structure of our society,” said Michelle Mitchell, director general of the charity Age UK.

“However, the wider implications of a changing population are often viewed by parliamentarians through a narrow lens, defined by the remit of specific committees.

“In having such a breadth of scope, the Lords committee has compiled the evidence base to take the long, expert view on demographic change. This will help to address public service reform on health, care, housing, income and age equality issues, which if thoughtfully integrated and effectively delivered, will create the foundation point for a good quality of life in old age.”

See the full article by Juliette Jowit, political correspondent The Guardian, Sunday 24 February 2013 16.22 GMT

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