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NHS failing older people needing continuing care, says Age Concern

Many older people who need care because of chronic health problems are being "let down by the NHS", government figures obtained by Age Concern reveal.

The charity says that, despite the introduction of new "Continuing NHS Healthcare" guidelines to make entitlement for ongoing NHS-funded nursing care fairer, fewer people are now receiving this overall.

Age Concern described the failings as a further evidence of how the entire care system is routinely failing older people and their families.

The figures, listed by health minister Ivan Lewis in a parliamentary answer in February, show sizable differences in how many people are getting continuing care between PCTs.

The PCT with the lowest record for paying out continuing care is offering funding to nearly 16 times fewer people than the PCT that reported the highest figure.

Age Concern argues that cutbacks made by PCTs that were supporting the most people have outstripped the gains made by the PCTs that were giving this funding to the fewest people.

Gloucestershire PCT has reported the lowest level of continuing care in England at only 5.65 people per 50,000 population. And East Riding of Yorkshire PCT, which reported the second-lowest level, reduced its numbers by half over the last year.

In addition, Mid Essex, Sandwell and Wandsworth PCTs all reported staggering reductions in excess of 80%.

Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, said: "Some areas of the country seem to be black spots for older people needing continuing care. Frail older people should not be denied the care they are entitled to because of where they happen to live.

"PCTs need to iron out these inconsistencies or face more claims for compensation. This is just one example of how the care system is routinely failing older people and their families. The government must stop talking about fixing this problem and start delivering."

In related news, the British Medical Association (NI) and the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) will meet with members of the European Parliament in Brussels tomorrow (15 April 2008) to present a joint policy paper on the care of older people in Europe.

The IMO and the BMA(NI) are calling on the EU Commissioner for Health to lead the way in establishing health policy that is fit for purpose with regard to the long-term care of older people throughout the EU and which is based on the common values and principles that underpin all EU healthcare systems.

Dr Brian Patterson, BMA(NI) Council Chairman, said: "We firmly believe that older people should have equal access to specialist treatment and be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

"We believe that healthcare for older people should be easily accessible and appropriate to the individual's needs, irrespective of where they live. The IMO and BMA(NI) would like to see more cross-border initiatives to improve healthcare for older people, to make sure they benefit from the advantages of being part of the EU."

Age Concern