Perhaps you heard it on the news this morning, over your tea and toast. ‘Frail old people in England are being left to fend for themselves because government-funded care is being scaled back, a review suggests.’
You may have had a sense of déjà vu. Reports like this are repeated so frequently that I wonder if they use the same copy but rearrange it slightly. Except that the joint report by the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust carries the weight of two well respected foundations. Their report says that the number of over-65s being helped by councils has fallen by a quarter in the four years to 2014, despite the ageing population meaning that more people are needing help.
In February figures showed that there had been the biggest spike in elderly deaths for almost fifty years – a 5% increase in mortality rates in just one year [i] – the highest since World War Two, and a ‘strong and flashing’ warning light, according to advisors to Public Health England.
They said the elderly were now bearing the brunt of a growing crisis in the NHS and cuts to social care, with women suffering the most because they lived the longest.
The want of basic help in the home costs NHS hospitals £millions a day. Read this graphic report by BBC Health correspondent, Alison Holt, from the A & E Department in the Royal Liverpool Hospital. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37377338.
The joint report notes that: “No-one has a full picture of what has happened to older people who are no longer entitled to publicly-funded care: the human and financial costs to them and those who care for them are mounting.” Adding, ‘Unpaid carers, such as family and friends, will be expected to do even more in future.’
But many of the over 80s, especially women, are without family and friends, having outlived them all. Over 2.5 million live alone.
Britain is currently one of the world’s best performing economies, based on total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which currently stands at $3.04 trillion. But what does it say about our values that we spend less than 1% of GPD on care of the elderly, and turn a blind eye to the suffering of frail, elderly folk?