‘Heartbreak’ over plight of elderly who ‘go to the grave without proper care’

The impact of the shortage of carers has been laid bare by a charity's claims that thousands of older people have died without getting the support they needed

Thousands of older people have died without getting the care they needed, a charity said as it branded the figures “heart-breaking”.

Age UK said it is “deeply concerned” about the plight of the elderly whose needs are not being met and urged the chancellor to direct more resources towards social care.

The charity pointed to NHS Digital figures for England showing that 28,890 requests for people aged 65 and over to be given support in 2021/22 were recorded as them having died without any services being provided.

While the figures are for requests for support rather than individual people, the charity said it was unlikely many people would have had multiple requests logged when they died.

Therefore, they said the numbers equate to more than 550 deaths a week – or 79 per day.

The charity’s director Caroline Abrahams said: “There isn’t enough social care to go round and so some older people are waiting endlessly for help they badly need.

“It is heart-breaking that on the latest figures, more than 500 older people a week are going to their graves without ever receiving the care and support to which they were entitled.

“Nor can the blame for this parlous situation be placed on the pandemic, for while it certainly didn’t help, social care services were struggling to secure enough staff and funding in the years preceding it.

“Since then, all the evidence is that the position has not got any better and, on most measures, has continued to get worse.”

Ms Abrahams said long waits for social care cause “huge distress to older people” and place “intolerable pressure on their families”.

She added: “At Age UK we are deeply concerned about the plight of all the older people with an unmet need for care, living alone, without any family or friends. We fear there are many tragedies playing out silently behind closed doors.”

The charity has written to Jeremy Hunt, calling on him to use his role as chancellor to fix a problem he had spoken about as chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee.

The letter said millions of older people in England awaiting care are “struggling to go to the toilet, eat, get dressed or wash because they can’t do these things unaided”.

It went on: “When you were chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, you expressed deep regret at being unable to fix the problems faced by social care during your time as Secretary of State.

“Now, as Chancellor, the Spring Budget is your opportunity to help the millions of older people, often unheard and feeling ignored, who are waiting for good, reliable care and support to live with dignity.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Everyone should have access to good quality social care when they need it, and our thoughts are with all those who have lost elderly relatives and loved ones.

“We are providing up to £7.5 billion in funding available over the next two years to support adult social care. This will put the adult social care system on a stronger financial footing and help local authorities address waiting lists, low fee rates, and workforce pressures in the sector.

“We are also tackling workforce pressures by promoting careers in adult social care through our annual domestic recruitment campaign and by investing £15 million to increase international recruitment of care workers.”

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