Community health and social care in sharp decline, warns charity

There is an alarming rise in the number of elderly patients being admitted to hospital with life-threatening conditions due to a ‘failure’ of community health and social care services. This is the message from a recent report published by Age UK.

The report warned that significant cuts to services in recent years have created a situation whereby more than a million elderly people are struggling with basic tasks such as washing and eating. It highlights the fact that as many as 1 in 5 of all hospital admissions are for elderly people with conditions that could be easily managed by GP’s and social care teams – with the problem getting worse.

Accordingly, between 2006 and 2014 the number of people aged over 60 being admitted to hospital for pneumonia has more than doubled, while those admitted for suspected urinary tract infections and congestive heart failure increased by 81% and 43% respectively during the same period.

Across all conditions, there was a 48% rise in emergency admissions between 2001 and 2013 at a cost to the NHS of £1.4 billion a year, with those aged over 75 accounting for 40% of the total spend.

A spokesperson for Age UK said: “On the whole, it is the community-based services which help older people to sustain their independence which have seen the sharpest falls, or where supply is most obviously failing to meet rising demand.

“More than a million older people in England now have at least one unmet need for social care, compared to 800,000 in 2010. This means they receive no help from their local authority, or from family, neighbours or friends.”

The Department of Health disputed the charity’s claim that the social care budget had shrunk by £1.85bn over the last decade and would fall by another £470m this year. They responded to the report by saying “In the period since these figures, we’ve taken significant action to ensure our ageing population gets necessary care.

“All over-75s should now have a named GP responsible for overseeing their care to help prevent them ending up in hospital unnecessarily, and we’ve set up a £5.3 billion fund that joins up health and social services.

“Going forward, we’re giving the NHS an additional £10 billion during this Parliament to deal with extra demand.”