Hunt Speaks Out On Care For Older People

Government Health Minister Jeremy Hunt Has Said More Needs To Be Done To Prevent Loneliness Among Older People


Secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt has condemned the "national shame" of more than 800,000 older people in the UK being "chronically lonely".

In a speech to the National Children and Adults Services (NCAS) conference today, Mr Hunt said some five million people's main form of company is their television and this is a massive failure on behalf of the entire country.

The Conservative also highlighted the fact that 112,000 alleged cases of abuse in care homes referred to English councils in the last year shows that something has gone "badly wrong" for people aged over-65 across the UK.

Mr Hunt said Britons should start to learn from Asian countries, where there is a massive amount of respect for old people. In nations like China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, frail people in their retirement are often cared for in one of their children's homes.

While this would present logistical difficulties for some working families, Mr Hunt told the NCAS summit that England should be "the best place in the world to grow old in", but this will require fundamental changes in policy, legislation and societal attitudes.

Labour shadow health secretary Andy Burnham backed Mr Hunt's calls, but said the coalition minister "can't get away from fact that government cuts to care have made it much worse [for older people]."

Age UK charity director Caroline Abrahams was also positive about Mr Hunt's speech, but remarked a "seismic" shift is needed in the way older people are cared for in the UK.

"At Age UK we are extremely concerned that cuts to local authority budgets are exacerbating the problem of loneliness because they are causing the closure of many support services for older people ... which can be a lifeline for those on their own," Ms Abrahams added.

"These cuts are also pushing to breaking point many families who are trying to care for their older relatives in the absence of adequate support."

Expert Opinion
Quality care for people of all ages should be the priority for the Government and health authorities, but unfortunately high-profile cases of neglect and abuse have shown that serious failings can emerge in this area.

“Elderly people deserve to have access to a high standard of treatment, but also for that treatment to be offered with both their respect and dignity carefully considered.

“Too often we are contacted about cases when this has simply not been the case and a vital change in attitude is needed if improvements are going to be seen. We hope Mr Hunt’s speech will ultimately be more than words and lead to significant action on this incredibly important issue.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner