People are living longer in Britain but little has been done to address how out of touch health and social care is with the needs of an ageing population.
Our current health and social care systems are not designed to satisfy the demands of an ageing Britain, as highlighted by this recent Guardian article. Britain’s welfare state was built during an era in which 48% of people died before the age of 65, which is clearly no longer the case. But it has failed to adapt its treatment of the elderly for an era in which over 80s are the fastest growing section of society, and radical action is called for. With ever more people living well into their late seventies and eighties, care requirements and costs have become far more pronounced – yet little has been done to alleviate the strain that this places upon services and families.
A recent study by Newcastle University showed that the average 80-something has four or five ailments requiring attention. This makes the present system in which GP clinics are designed to deal quickly with a mass of single-issue patients seem redundant, and suggests an alternative approach is needed. Just as important to structural reform, however, is an adjustment in society’s attitude to the elderly.
This societal lack of regard for the needs of the elderly is also apparent in matters of social care. It is vital that more is done to counter society’s attitude towards the elderly. Recently – as highlighted by this Prestige Nursing + Care blog – there have been suggestions that care home inspectors apply a ‘mum test’ and this sort of attitude could be encouraged throughout the sector. By treating the elderly more as individuals rather than a collective we should start to target some of negative sentiments or impressions of being a burden.
The largest concerns about how the care sector and NHS will continue to function come down to cost and lack of resources. An immediate way to counter this is by moving services into the community. For example, domiciliary care can provide an effective alternative. Not only can it significantly save money and increase available space and resources in hospitals, but it also offers a much more personable approach to those seeking care, therefore tackling costs, resources and attitudes. Understanding the needs of this ever-growing elderly demographic, and adjusting health and social care to tackle the challenges head on, is clearly necessary and will be beneficial for everyone.