The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that the number of over-80s in Britain will double within the next 25 years. By 2037, one in 12 people will be aged over 80 with medical advances being reported as the main factor behind the ageing population and concerns are being raised about the pressure that this will exert on our economy and, more specifically, the NHS.
This report comes against a backdrop of concerns that the NHS is facing “bankruptcy” because of the strain caused by Britain’s ageing population, reports The Telegraph. As we approach winter, significant concerns are being raised that our A&E departments will not be able to cope with demand, particuarly as a significant proportion of 999 calls and A&E admissions are for elderly patients.
Earl Howe, health minister, has acknowledged that it would “simply not be sustainable” for the number of hospital admissions of elderly people to “go on increasing in line with demographic changes” and that the NHS and the community care system needs to “adapt and respond to future need”.
Lucie Prothero, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, said: “The question remains of how we are going to deal with the scale of increased demand on the NHS and, so far, the Department of Health has failed to publish any estimates of the impact of the growing elderly population on future healthcare demand.
“Undoubtedly the NHS needs to change in order to tackle the major financial challenge it faces. While it is encouraging that ministers and peers recognise these challenge, it is also vital that we explore new ways of coping with the ageing population, while ensuring that patient safety is not compromised.
"In our clinical negligence team we see many sad cases where elderly patients have poor outcomes resulting from inadequate management at the emergency care stage or after being discharged prematurely from hospital. Any debate about how the NHS is going to tackle the issue of growing demand from an ageing population needs to be seen in the context of patient safety. Calls to shift patients into the community and reduce hospital admissions - that are often aimed at elderly patients - must be measured against the potential risks to their health and welfare and can only work if there is proper community provision.”