Retirees face ‘catastrophic’ consequences if social safety net is not reformed

Nearly half—49 percent—of all people arriving at emergency rooms by ambulance are over 65, and 35 percent are over 75. takes off. And without a proper social safety net, the number of unplanned hospitalizations will continue to rise, putting even more pressure on the National Health Service.

The figures show that 3.3 million pensioners are now living alone, up from 2.8 million ten years ago. And 1.5 million do not have children, so they may need guardians to help them around the house.

These numbers are expected to grow along with the demand for social assistance. But a report by Age UK Fixing the Foundations says politicians are not planning ahead.

It turned out that the proportion of older people receiving long-term support from local authorities has decreased by 13.5% over the past five years.

Meanwhile, more than 1.6 million retirees have some basic needs, such as help with getting dressed, doing laundry or getting out of bed, that are not fully met.

They also suffer from heart disease, arthritis or diabetes, which are becoming increasingly difficult for them to manage. And many end up in the hospital.

Caroline Abrahams, director of charity Age UK, said: “We were contacted last week by a woman whose aging father died sitting alone in a chair in the emergency room of a local hospital.

“The fact remains that too many older people end up in hospitals…because we cannot provide combined preventive health and care services to help them cope at home.

Too many are also stuck in hospitals because there is no social assistance to support them at home.

“This is a completely predictable vicious cycle that is causing tremendous heartache and suffering to our older population. And huge hardships for the NHS too.”

Age UK found that more than two-thirds of people over the age of 85 live with multiple illnesses, and 35 percent of older people have some form of frailty.

Report co-author Ruth Isden said: “A growing older population, life expectancy with increasingly complex needs and many without children to provide informal care means the social safety net as it was in the past is no more .

“We see older people and their families struggling and suffering more and more.”

“We were left to fight alone”

Norman and Rosamund Phillips are battling numerous illnesses and have always fought to stay at home.

But they were forced to call 999 for an ambulance, feeling they had to deal with emergency medical care alone.

Mrs Phillips, 72, suffers from multiple sclerosis and dementia, and Mr Phillips, 71, a former IT manager, quit his job in 2008 to look after his wife when help was too expensive. The couple from Stevenage, Herts, have been married for over 40 years.

On January 27, Mrs. Phillips became seriously ill and her husband called 999 after they were unable to get an appointment with a general practitioner, and the district nurse said she could not treat Mrs. Phillips without the doctor’s consent.

Mr Phillips said: “After a week of increasing pain and several visits to the GP, to the district nurse and dialing 111 that never returned calls, I was forced to call emergency services.”

At the hospital, they found that his wife was on the verge of an intestinal perforation.

“The system is a joke,” he said. “There is no unified thinking. Elderly people are left alone, and the situation is complicated by the fact that medical workers no longer seem to want to leave their offices.”


Every day we hear reports of how difficult it is to provide quality care for the elderly. It often seems that the system is set against them.

These are the ones who are stuck in ambulances, emergency room carts, and hospital beds waiting for social assistance to be sent. They fall ill as a result of these delays.

The situation worsened during Covid, but many problems remained unresolved. Successive governments have promised but failed to deliver social protection reform, so people are still unable to access the care they need at the right time. People with lower incomes also get stuck in the hospital or at home unaided because they cannot afford the fees charged by care agencies.

We have not always seen the guidance we need to improve the situation. Last year, NHS England withdrew £204 million from a proactive care initiative that would focus on proactive care for older people.

Government and system leaders should heed the warnings contained in this report. The focus should be on removing barriers to social assistance, rebuilding depleted rehabilitation services, and strengthening community support for older people so they can live longer in good health.

We need to build a health and social care workforce equipped to care for the elderly through training and recruitment. This is only possible if the government works to resolve trade union disputes.

  • Adam Gordon is President of the Geriatric Society.

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