3 Jan 2012

Elderly left ‘lonely, isolated and at risk’ by care services

Social care experts have written to the government urging it to overhaul England’s “failing” social care system, which they say is leaving 800,000 elderly people “lonely, isolated and at risk”.

Elderly - Getty

In a letter published in the Daily Telegraph, a group of more than 60 government advisers, charity directors and independent experts said failure to meet the challenge of an ageing population was resulting in “terrible examples of abuse and neglect”.

The signatories, who include representatives from the British Medical Association, Age UK and the TUC, called for cross-party support to secure “urgent, fundamental and lasting reform”.

“The unavoidable challenge we face is how to support the increasing number of people who need care,” they wrote.

“It is currently a challenge which we are failing to meet – resulting in terrible examples of abuse and neglect in parts of the care system.

“This comes at a huge cost to the dignity and independence of older and disabled people, but also to our society, family life and the economy.

“An estimated 800,000 older people are being left without basic care – lonely, isolated and at risk.”

They said some people faced losing their homes and savings because of rising social care bills, while businesses were losing staff, who were forced to give up work to care for relatives.

NHS hospitals were “paying the price” because of avoidable hospital admissions, they added.

The signatories backed proposals that no one should pay more than £35,000 for care bills during their lifetime.

Last week, the King’s Fund think tank said that old people are often taking up valuable hospital bed space unnecessarily.

In its report, it urged the NHS to cut the number who arrived as emergency cases but stayed for more than a fortnight – even after they had recovered from the crisis. Failure to tackle the issue could prevent the health service from achieving its target of £20bn in efficiency savings by 2015, the report added.

The publication of the letter by the 60 experts comes a day after the government announced an extra £150m for patients to receive care at home rather than in hospital.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the money had been freed up thanks to efficiency savings in his department’s central budget.