Lack of social care may be costing the NHS £500 a minute

Age UK claims more older people than ever are missing out on vital care and support

A lack of social care and delayed hospital discharges is costing the cash-strung NHS £500-a-minute, according to estimates from Age UK.

A total of £289.1m is being drained from the coffers of the health service in England as a result.

Around one in seven older people are living with an unmet care need – up a fifth in the last two years.

Is this what we want for our parents and grandparents, husbands and wives, older neighbours and friends in 2018?

Of the 1.4 million older people affected, more than 300,000 need help with three or more essential tasks, ranging from getting out of bed to going to the toilet and dressing. But these needs are not being met with half receiving no help at all from paid carers, family or friends.

“Our new analysis echoes what we hear all round the country: it is getting ever harder to access care if you need it and increasing numbers of frail, ill older people are being left to manage alone,” said Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director. “If an older person needs social care but can’t get it this is a sure-fire recipe for them to become weaker and less well.

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“Is this what we want for our parents and grandparents, husbands and wives, older neighbours and friends in 2018?”

The NHS was celebrated last week as it reached its 70thanniversary and the government marked the occasion by promising a ‘birthday gift’ of extra £20bn funding, however it remains to be seen how much of that will trickle down to social care.

Responding to the Age UK figures, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “No one should be stuck in hospital when their treatment has finished. We expect the NHS to work closely with local authorities to ensure people are treated in the most suitable setting and when they are discharged from hospital they have a care plan in place.

“The government has committed to a long-term plan with a sustainable multi-year settlement for the NHS to help it manage growing patient demand. Health and social care are two sides of the same coin and reforms must be aligned. That’s why our forthcoming green paper will be published in the autumn alongside the NHS plan.”

To mark 70 years of the NHS, The Big Issue gave the health service a check-up of its own and  asked if social enterprises could offer the answer to the lack of social care.