We need to get real about the cost of ageing

by James Beckles

In Britain we face a challenging future with an increasing population and one that is ageing rapidly. Statistics show that one in six of the UK’s population are over 65. Britain’s older people have made momentous strides to make Britain the place it is today with its diversity, modernity and liberal sensibilities. But our public services in health and social care, two areas many older people are dependent on, face a catastrophe of over burden and under-funding if this Tory-led government continue to strangle public spending and investment in health and social care.

We have heard this government’s hollow promises about protecting the NHS, yet their Health and Social Care Act 2012 has begun the process of privatisation and gutting the National Health Service by private firms; who are cherry picking the best parts and providing very little in patient satisfaction and care. Cameron, his Lib-Dem allies included, have shown a blatant disregard for the health and well being of the general public and it’s most vulnerable people.

As a former Care Quality Commission (CQC) compliance inspector I saw first hand how the failures of health and social care can lead to poorer health outcomes for older people, whether it was a late diagnosis for a treatable condition or the lack of regular contact with health professionals. All this was because the professionals in health did not speak to the ones in social care. There were no formal links and this affected older people significantly. There were examples of good care of course but this was few and far between.

Labour’s health and social care policy review in 2013, introduced by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham MP, has shown that by integrating these two sectors, which are already so closely inter-related, you not only reduce long term hospitalisation which is costly to an older person in terms of health outcomes and the health service in money spent. Through integration you improve older people’s general health and well being because the two sectors are working together to provide the best care package available. By working together professionals in both sectors can identify and address the needs of older people a lot quicker and ‘prevent’ long term stays in hospital. The old adage ‘‘prevention is better than cure’’ rings very true here.

There may be those who are wary of another NHS reorganisation but unlike the Tories, a Labour government would have the best interests of our ageing population in mind. Local government and especially Labour held councils up and down the country where social care is often administered are facing devastating cuts to public spending. The Local Government Association (LGA) has said that they have made £5bn of cuts since June 2010. This on top of a 2.9% cut in overall government funding for 2014/15 has seen services reduce or disappear all together. The pressures on local government to fulfil their duties to older people and manage deep cuts are and will be immense.

Only by backing a Labour win in 2015 can we secure this promise of a better integrated health and social care system. The Labour party in opposition has shown a tremendous amount of resilience and vision to begin shaping a credible health and social care policy backed by high profile campaigns on the streets and speeches in parliament calling for the protection of NHS hospitals, integration of services, and more funds made available to ensure older people have the well funded and crucial services they need to lead independent and fulfilling lives.

James Beckles is a Labour candidate in the 2014 local elections

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3 Responses to “We need to get real about the cost of ageing”

  1. Madasafish says:

    Without being too disparaging to Mr Beckles, spending more money – assuming it is available – is not the way forward – as the Last Government proved.

    Mid Staffs, the A&E shambles and doctors’ inflated salaries show what a mess can be made if you are really incompetent. And given the utter incompetence of the Care Quality Commission, claiming you were an inspector is the act of a very brave man.

    I write as an “older person”..

  2. Tafia says:

    You can dress it up anyway ou like but the one true fact you cannot evade is that when the universal state pension was introduced post-war, the average age of death of a working man was 67-68. ie they only lived a couple of years/ In addition, families were more closely entwined and the elderly were usually cared for by theor own families, usually the women, because a working wage allowed one wage earner to support a family.

    Fast forward to today. Even with both parents working they still need tax credits. Pensions have not kept up with the age of death. Families are scattered far and wide and care for the elderly has been thrown to the state.

    Without revamping society so that one working wage in a household can support a family – and without top-ups, and the pension age raised and then pegged to 2-3 years below the average age of death, then there is little that can be done – the money simply does not exist.

    You could say ‘rtax the rich’ – but who exactly are the rich? For instance where I live in North Wales, a Police Constable on 20-odd grand a year is considered a very well paid job. There was an advert last week for a job with the water board where they wanted a graduate with a degree in science and 5 years field experience (which would make them late 20’s in age). The salary was 18K.

    More than half the workforce earns considerably less than the average wage, so to more than half of the workforce anyone earning average wage or more is ‘rich’. So increase taxation on anyone earning more than average. Vote winner becvause it doesn’t affect most of the population.

  3. atavism says:

    All I will say is Wales. In fact I will go further 🙂

    Your post is full of so many assumptions as to be bereft of intellectual clout. How on earth can you suggest that “Through integration you improve older people’s general health and well being because the two sectors are working together to provide the best care package available.” Just because you join the services does not mean it will get better. If anything, I will see it more as an efficiency savings move. There is no obvious cause and effect link here. So if Labour bases a bulk of its health care policy on this – I despair!

    Dumping more money into the NHS does not solve the issue.

    Lastly, you may wish to play down your CQC experience.

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