Caroline Abrahams of Age UK has warned that care of the elderly in England is in a state of “calamitous, quite rapid decline”. The number of people over 65 who now receive any kind of support from their council has fallen from over one million five years ago to 850,000.
More than £1 billion has been slashed from councils’ social care budgets since 2010, despite an increase in the older population. Age UK reports that thousands who would have previously received help with basic daily tasks no longer receive any support. For example, 500,000 of the one million of over-65s who struggle to wash do not receive any help and one in five of the 240,000 who need help taking medication do not receive any support.
These cuts are having a detrimental impact on acute medical services as hospitals are unable to safely discharge elderly patients because of the lack of care in the community. The Government has now announced £25 million in emergency funding for 65 councils in areas where delays in discharging elderly patients from hospitals are most severe, reports The Independent.
Commenting on Age UK’s findings, Lucie Prothero, associate at Penningtons Manches, said: “We have repeatedly warned that the cuts in social care funding are short-sighted and would deepen the crisis facing our over-stretched hospital services. These cuts not only damage the health of older members of the community but affect every generation as it is limiting access to hospital care for everyone who requires acute medical care.
“The problem of “bed blockers”, where beds are taken up by frail older patients who are waiting to be discharged with a community care package, is a serious factor in the crisis facing the NHS this winter. The problem is twofold. Not only are much needed hospital beds being used by increasing numbers of elderly people who should be cared for at home but these patients are more likely to suffer falls, dehydration and infection – often with fatal outcomes. Every week we are talking to families who are concerned about the level of care for their elderly relatives. The recent pledge by the Government for additional social care funding acknowledges that the debate about inadequate NHS hospital funding must be seen in the wider context of social care cuts and the two must be tackled together.”