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25.02.13

Systems ‘not coping’ with ageing population – Lords

The ageing population will have a huge impact on health and social services, and there needs to be a robust plan to prepare for this, a new Lords committee will report.

The committee on public service and demographic change has been taking evidence from a range of experts on the impact of the ageing population. It is due to report next month.

Half of people born after 2007 can now expect to live to over 100, and between 2010 and 2030 the number of people aged over 65 will increase by 51%.

Lord Filkin, chair of the committee, criticised the NHS for not making detailed forecasts for the increase in patients and stated the need for agreement on values and vision of the Government on this issue.

He said: “If you have big changes coming and/or those changes require you to make significant changes in services and systems over time, you have to have some kind of plan.”

Giving evidence, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “My belief is that governments should be judged by what they do, not what they say, and this government has been doing a lot. We have made good first steps, but is there more we can do? There certainly is.”

Filkin added: “We asked the question: is the system coping with the current level [of health pressures] and the evidence we got is it isn't. How is it going to cope in a near future, seven to 17 years' time, when we have massively increased demand coming into the system? Given the sort of data given to us in evidence, it's pretty clear we have major social change coming and we'd expect them [ministers] to have some sort of idea.”

Michelle Mitchell, director general of the charity Age UK, said: “Today's older people are in the vanguard of an extraordinary revolution in longevity that is radically changing the structure of our society.

“However, the wider implications of a changing population are often viewed by parliamentarians through a narrow lens, defined by the remit of specific committees.

“In having such a breadth of scope, the Lords committee has compiled the evidence base to take the long, expert view on demographic change. This will help to address public service reform on health, care, housing, income and age equality issues, which if thoughtfully integrated and effectively delivered, will create the foundation point for a good quality of life in old age.”

For more on the committee’s inquiry, see the Nov/Dec 2012 edition of PSE.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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