Thursday, 30 May 2013

Crisis in Accident and Emergency Services

On May 15th on Radio 4, Jeremy Hunt suggested that one of the main reasons for the crisis in hospitals’ A&E services is the ageing population. Making them another marginalised group to ‘feed’ deficit reduction again contributes to a divided ‘us and them’ society and a blame culture. Older people are becoming a target for ageist subliminal messages.

Last week’s launch of ‘The Strategy for Older People (Phase 3)’ suggests it’s time to champion the generations that fought for our country and built its wealth. MPs salaries are too easily earned through crass strategies rather than solving complex problems and rewarding citizens’ contributions. If prominent people can perpetuate ageist myths then they must be challenged!

Ageing isn’t restricted to the old. It is something that is necessitated by birth, and an age-positive approach from a co-operative society should promote opportunity, value positive contributions and encourage planning for life. We must recognise that:
  • The majority of older people are economically active and net contributors of wealth to local communities
  • They provide the social glue as a cohort of ‘unpaid carers’ that save our care services millions annually
  • They contribute to governance in the public sector
  • They are the volunteers that make our local services work

The facts that appear to substantiate an ageing crisis are in fact not a surprise to any one. In fact, the real surprise is that our politicians are surprised at all. Demographic modelling is not new:

In his ‘Adding Life to Years’ publication, John Osmond (Institute of Welsh Affairs) says that in the next 10 years, the number of people aged over 65 in Wales will increase by about 5%, an increase of 130,000, and the number aged over 85 will increase by 30,000. In the next 60 years, the number of people in the UK aged over 65 will more than triple from 4.6 million to 15.4 million, and in that same timescale, according to the UK Government’s actuary department, the number of people aged 100 will increase from 10,000 to 1 million.

Thus, the real problems emerge:
  • Shouldn’t successive governments have prioritised the need to plan for an ageing society?
  • The funding crisis is a result of reactive approaches and the absence of preventative investment
  • We don’t plan to resource community services in order to relieve acute services 
  • Funding decisions are historic not targeted and intelligent
  • Older people themselves are enablers and ‘social capital’

It's not too late to be positive about ageing. In fact, it's our only hope!

Neil Williams
Head of Agency Performance and Funding, Care & Repair Cymru

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