Category Archives: Autumn Statement

More needed to make Britain a great place to grow older

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne

Our latest blog has been contributed by Mike Smith, joint Head of Public affairs at Age UK, commenting on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

As we continue to digest the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor’s announcement contained some welcome news for older people, but lacked action on some of the biggest issues Age UK has been campaigning on to make Britain a great place to grow older in the coming years.

What was in the statement? Certainly we heard some welcome news around the £2billion extra funding for the NHS, and the additional £1.2billion to improve GP services.  As people grow older many of us will rely more and more on vital health services.  As Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, highlighted in the Five Year Forward View the NHS will need an additional £8billion a year in the coming years and so this is a positive start. Continue reading

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Is the NHS on the brink of a winter crisis?

The mild days of late autumn are barely gone, yet concerns about a looming winter crisis in the NHS are already hitting the headlines. With financial pressure growing, performance targets slipping and hospitals already overstretched, a political storm has hit Westminster and Whitehall. Could another cold snap tip the NHS over the edge?

A SLIPPERY SLOPE?

Winter pressures in the NHS happen every year, as a result of higher emergency admissions and increased numbers of people requiring hospital care (e.g. people with respiratory conditions or winter viruses). Most of those affected are older people, many of whom have higher care needs and can be more vulnerable to the cold.

Yet, despite anticipatory planning and the usual precautions, there are growing concerns that accident and emergency (A&E) services are heading inevitably towards a midwinter meltdown. NHS statistics have revealed that A&E performance in late autumn this year has been worse than in the depths of last winter.

On average over the past four weeks, just 93.5% of patients attending A&E in England were seen within four hours, with 23 trusts failing to reach 90% last week. By contrast, above 95% of patients were seen within the required timeframe last winter.

WHAT ABOUT PATIENT SAFETY?

The unprecedented demand on A&Es has serious implications for older people’s health and experience of care. The high levels of bed occupancy have led to people being held in ambulances outside the hospital or waiting on trolleys for many hours. This has also had a knock-on effect on other hospital services, with patients having their appointments and operations cancelled.

For the many older people who are lonely and isolated, or living with frailty or dementia, the inability of A&Es to respond to their needs can be disastrous. Due to a lack of appropriate support in the community, they are often forced to wait until they reach a crisis for a response and rely on emergency admissions for help. Arriving in a worse state of health, they are then faced with a fraught and overstretched urgent care centre or A&E. Continue reading

Ever receding retirement?

This blog was contributed by Hannah Pearce, Age UK’s joint Head of Public Affairs. 

440x210_george-osborne

The big headline in today’s autumn statement was the Chancellor’s announcement to increase state pension age. George Osborne said that state pension age would be set following a general principle by which people could expect to spend a third of their adult life in retirement. He declared that state pension age needs to keep up with life expectancy. On current assumptions, this would mean an increase to 68 in the mid 2030’s and 69 by the mid 2040’s. This follows a number of increases to State Pension Age in the last three Pensions Acts, the most recent of which speeded up equalisation so that women’s State Pension Age will increase to 65 between April 2016 and November 2018 and then to 66 for both men and women between December 2018 and October 2020. The current bill going through parliament proposes an increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

We have two broad concerns with this pronouncement. Firstly life expectancy figures on their own do not tell the whole story. Whilst life expectancy at birth (in England) for men is 83 the life expectancy gap – the gap between the highest and lowest life expectancy estimates by local authority is almost 9 years. The picture looks even worse when you examine healthy life expectancy which is only 64. And the male healthy life expectancy gap by local authority is over 15 years with Richmond at one of the scale where it is just over 70 compared to Manchester where it is just 55. Continue reading

The shame of excess winter deaths

This morning the Office for National Statistics announced that there were 31,100 excess winter deaths last winter.

To say this is a national shame (as we have done) is both a cliché and also absolutely true.

Excess winter deaths – or the additional deaths during the winter months when compared to the rest of the year – are entirely preventable.

We know this because other countries with much harsher winters – such as the Scandinavian countries – have significantly fewer excess winter deaths.440x210_Snow-in-Shepton-Mal

Yet in the UK the numbers remain stubbornly high. Today’s figures show a 29% rise on the previous year and represent a four year high.

We all know that last winter was cold and long, but the figures are still unacceptable. That older people’s lives are still at the mercy of the weather in the twenty-first century is something we should rightly be ashamed of. Continue reading