Laura Sharman 26 March 2014

Councils ‘rationing’ care for the elderly

Most local authorities are ‘tightly rationing’ their social care for older people, according to new research.

The research, from the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation, reveals that many councils are cutting or reducing services for the over-65s, with home and day care spending falling by 23% between 2009/10 and 2012/13.

The number of older people receiving home-delivered meals has halved in the same period, and nearly a quarter of a million (245,855) fewer older people received publicly funded community services.

The report warns that these cuts have left hundreds of thousands previously eligible older people without local authority support, but a lack of data means it is impossible to quantify the impact of cuts on health and wellbeing.

Holly Holder, report lead author and fellow in health policy at the Nuffield Trust, said: ‘Our analysis paints a picture of increased rationing of social care by hard-pressed local authorities in response to deep cuts from central Government, despite the growing numbers of older people in the population.

‘It is highly likely that this is having a negative effect on older people’s health and wellbeing and that of their carers, but without adequate data to assess this impact, the NHS and Government are flying blind when it comes to managing demand and planning for the future.’

The report also suggests that local authorities have focused remaining resources on those most in need, with the number of people receiving 10 or more hours of care staying constant between 2009/10 and 2012/13. In the same period, 42% fewer people received lower-intensity care.

Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said: ‘Across the English NHS A&E departments are creaking, in part because of rising demand for care from frail older people. Emergency hospital admissions have risen by almost a third in ten years: many of these were preventable and many were short stay admissions for older people with multiple conditions. Good quality social care can help to prevent attendances in A&E.’

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