A House of Lords cross-party committee has demanded changes to the health and social care system citing figures from the Office for National Statistics which predict a 50% rise in the number of over-65s and double the number of over-85s by 2030.
While suggesting that longer life thanks to medical advances was to be welcomed, the committee said the nation was 'woefully unprepared to deal with an ageing population'. It concluded that, unless the government acts swiftly, the inevitable demographic shift would cause a series of crises in society and in public services. It is of course appropriate that the call comes from a House of Lords committee since about half of the peers eligible to sit in the House of Lords are aged 70 or over.
This is more than mere self interest on their Lordships' part though, and the report called on the Government to publish a white paper before the 2015 General Election setting out how England needs to prepare for an older population. Lord Filkin, chairman of the Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change said this was not a distant issue and changes in attitudes, policies and services will be required. The committee report suggested that policymakers should not be afraid to tell people they will need to work longer and that state retirement pension ages may need to rise further as healthy life expectancy also increases.
The committee report declared that our communities, housing and transport system are ill-equipped for the challenges ahead and suggested that the current NHS and care system is already failing older people. Without reform they suggest that the health and care system is incapable of dealing with the expected large increase in elderly. With the number of people living with long-term medical conditions also set to rise sharply, a radically different model of care would be needed to support people in their homes to prevent pressure on the NHS.
The Lord’s committee also called for all parties to address the implications of these population changes for public spending in their next election manifestos. No matter which party was in power after the next election, the committee urged them to establish independent commissions to examine how pension and savings provisions could be increased, how equity release could be better exploited and how funding for social care could be improved.