What’s the current picture?
The report exposes the reality of the scale of the challenge facing older people in today’s NHS and social care system.
There are significant short term issues, from long waits for a social care assessment (in some places, people are waiting up to 8 months for just this first step in the journey to receive support) to large numbers of over-65s being taken to A&E by ambulance, too often for want of the effective health and care support they need at home. Hundreds of thousands of older people are also stuck in hospital beds even when medically fit to leave – a tragedy for them and a huge problem for the system as a whole.
On top of these short term challenges, there are even greater long term issues coming towards us. For example, while we should celebrate the fact that life expectancy has dramatically improved over the decades – with a man now expected to live 18.5 years longer and a woman 21 years longer, compared to 75 years ago – this remarkable achievement does also mean a much bigger, and growing, older population. In fact, the fastest growing group of all is the over-85s, which is projected to grow by two thirds over the next twenty years.
The number of people ageing without children is rising markedly too: by 2030, there will be 2 million. This matters because these people are far more likely to need a formal social care service since they are less able to call on family support.