An estimated 900,000 older people in England and Wales with care needs receive no support at all, either from their local council or even informally through friends and family, according to Age UK. Half struggle to wash themselves, two thirds have difficulty eating on their own and as many as four out of five need help taking medication. One in three people who struggle with these basic tasks have to fend for themselves, an increase of 9% since the previous estimate two years ago.

Age UK blames the deep cuts in social and health care funding which are forcing councils to ration care to those with the most severe need, despite the growing number of older people in this country. Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, commented: "Our national failure to invest properly in social care not only deprives older people of vital support, it also makes no economic sense. For example, an older person who struggles to eat is more likely to become ill and need expensive hospital treatment than if they receive some regular help with their meals. Social care helps older people to stay well and keep their independence for longer.”

Commenting on Age UK’s analysis, Lucie Prothero, associate at Penningtons Manches, says: “It is very worrying that so many older people in the UK with care needs are receiving no support. This data is yet another example of how the squeeze on health and social care funding is having a detrimental impact on the ageing UK population.

“We are seeing more enquiries from relatives of older patients concerned about poor standards of health and social care, both in hospital and in the community and often act for elderly people who have fallen in their homes with devastating consequences such as severe fractures and brain injury. Often these events result in hospital admissions that could have been avoided and place additional strain on acute medical resources. We then see complaints about poor standards of medical and nursing care once the older patient is admitted to hospital, often leading to a downward spiral in the person’s health and preventing a return to their homes.

“We agree with Caroline Abraham’s sentiments that the rationing of care is rather short-sighted as it ignores the heavy costs of admitting elderly patients to hospital when they become unwell as a consequence of a lack of basic care in the community. From our experience of dealing with elderly care claims, it is clear that the health and social care services are in real need of increased funding to protect the elderly and vulnerable.”