Elderly care costs to surge in next decade, academics warn

24 May 17

The proportion of older people with care needs is set to rise by 25% within a decade in England and Wales.

That finding comes from a study, funded by the British Heart Foundation and worked on by teams from four academic institutions, published today in The Lancet Public Health journal.

It concluded there was an urgent need for better disease prevention policies, and increased investment in health and social care.

The study found that the number of people aged over 65 needing care could reach 2.8m by 2025 – an increase of 25% from 2015 and equivalent to an additional 560,000 people.

It said this increase would result from greater longevity rather than an increase in ill-health, and the poor state of social care would – if left unreformed – affect the ability of people on lower incomes to live independently.

Lead author Maria Guzman-Castillo, of the University of Liverpool, said: “The societal, economic, and public health implications of our predictions are substantial. In particular, our findings draw attention to the scale of societal costs associated with disability in the coming decade.

“Spending on long-term care will need to increase considerably by 2025, which has serious implications for a cash-strapped and overburdened National Health Service and an under-resourced social care system.”

Guzman-Castillo said more cost-effective health and social care provision would be needed, such as increased availability of institutional care, and better financial support – such as tax allowances or cash benefits – for family members providing informal and home care.

The study estimated that the number of people aged over 65 would increase from 10.4m in 2015 to 12.4m by 2025, by which time life expectancy would rise by 1.7 years to 86.8, but with 5.4 years spent with a disability when aged over 65.

Dementia would be the greatest cause of disability in this age group, predicted to increase by 49% to 699,000, from 468,000 in 2015.

Other notable causes of disability would be mental health, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and other chronic diseases.

The report authors called for increased investment in health and social care, and disease prevention measures to counter poor diet, smoking, high alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, diabetes and lack of physically activity, all of which were risk factors for chronic diseases and associated disability. 

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