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The endless wait for care

An older man sits waiting alone in his living room, staring out of his back door

Dear Chancellor, where's our care?

Millions of older people across the UK are stuck waiting for care. Miles Bassett, Campaigns Officer at Age UK, discusses what's being done to help.



It’s been more than three years since Boris Johnson promised he would “fix care for good”.  Since then, our underfunded care system has come under even greater pressure and millions of older people are paying the price.

In England, 2.6 million people aged 50+ aren’t receiving the care they desperately need. This means millions are not being supported to do the most basic things: like preparing a meal, getting washed or dressed, or even going to the toilet.

We hear in the news every day that our overstretched care system is putting more strain on the NHS, as there isn’t sufficient support to help people return home from hospital. While it's great that the Government is putting real effort into moving older people out of hospitals – freeing up precious capacity and preventing older people's health from deteriorating – it’s the millions of older people at home, waiting months for care, that are too often ignored and forgotten.  

Personal struggles

Several Age UK supporters who are in need of support, or have cared for a loved one, have shared with us their experiences of trying to get care. Some of these stories made for tough reading; many detailed older people being left alone and isolated in care homes, or at home, physically and mentally suffering without the right help. We think Cath and Sue’s stories below, for example, demonstrate how dire the situation is right now. 

I am 66 and sole carer for my 90-year-old mum, who is bedbound. While adult social care have been very helpful, they are not presently able to put a care package in place due to staff shortages in all the care agencies.

I am providing 24/7 care for mum with little help and support. If it wasn't for the help of my two sons who live close by, and a good friend, I don't know what I would do. They all come in during the day to help me out with putting mum on the commode. It is only my knowledge from being a nurse and midwife that mum has not developed pressure sores in the three years that she has been bedbound.


We waited six months for a Social Work Assessment for my 91-year-old mother-in-law. The assessment finally took place four weeks ago and we have heard nothing since. She has lost 5 stone in weight, cannot leave the house and needs three visits per day. She is wasting away and even with our experience and knowledge we feel 'stuck'.

My partner and I worked for more than 30 years in health and social care because we believed in the system - a system that is now broken.


Fixing the system

At Age UK, we’re campaigning for better care. In the past year, our supporters have emailed their MPs calling for the Government to keep its promise on fixing care, and during Carers Week last summer we went to Parliament with two of our campaigners, who are unpaid carers, to tell MPs that families are being pushed to breaking point.  

Now, once again, we’re demanding the Government take urgent action on social care.  We’re asking people to add their name to a letter to the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt MP, telling him that we can’t wait any longer for care. We need more investment in staff, to reduce assessment times and get older people home from hospital.

Alongside some of our campaigners, we’ll be going to Westminster to deliver the letter in person.  We need Jeremy Hunt to use the Spring Budget on the 15 March to invest in care so waiting lists are cut and older people get the support they need to live well. You can learn more about older people’s experiences of trying to access care in our new report

Pushing for change

By working together with our campaign community, we're determined to make the UK a better place to grow older. Learn more about our latest campaigns by signing up to our newsletter.

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Last updated: Mar 01 2023

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