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UK is not prepared for its ageing population

31st Mar 2013

The UK population is steadily ageing as people live longer. The Office for National Statistics, which gathers information about population demographics, forecasts a 50% rise in the number of over-65s and a doubling in over-85s between 2010 and 2030.

The impact an ageing population will have on pensions, healthcare and other resources have long been recognised but a recent Lords Committee has warned that the UK is “woefully underprepared” for the social and economic challenges an ageing society will present.

The Committee said “the gift of longer life” could lead to “a series of crises”” in public service provision. The Peers have stated that significant changes are required in pensions, health care and employment practices to help ensure that older people could “sustain a good quality of life” as they aged.

Whilst the fact that people are living longer can be seen as progress, due to advances in medicine and technology, and could be a good thing which brings benefits for many, there is also the fact that an ageing population would also mean many people living longer with long-term medical and social needs that can put pressure on NHS resources.

Ensuring the elderly are properly cared for, have the required financial support and are in appropriate housing, means that resources need to be made available. The pressure that this would place on the NHS, pensions and other resources mean that the Government needs to start planning now how best to provide for the inevitable ageing of the UK population.

The Committee has been assessing the impact of a significant demographic change on the UK for nearly a year and has questioned a number of Government figures, including Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, as well as academics, charities and companies such as Alliance Boots and B&Q.

The Committee has reported that a “series of crises” could ensue if action was not taken now by the Government to plan for the impact this will have on public services.

Factors that need consideration are the long term medical care of elderly patients with a range of long term medical conditions, and options to help support people in their homes and to prevent pressure on the NHS.

The Peers are asking the main political parties to set out in their manifestoes before the next election, what their proposals are to deal with the changing population of the UK and how they propose to increase pensions and savings provisions and how funding for social care can be improved.

Rachel Kayani

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