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In England 74,000 older people have died or will die waiting for care between the 2017 and 2019 General Elections

Published on 22 November 2019 04:27 PM

That's 81 older people dying a day or about three dying every hour, according to Age UK

New Age UK analysis estimates that in the 30 months between the last and the forthcoming General Elections, 74,000[i] over-65s in England have died or will die having never received the care and support that they have asked for. This means in the period 8th June 2017 – 12th December 2019, an average of 81 people a day, equivalent to three every hour, died while in this very unfortunate position. 

Age UK’s analysis is published as it prepares to host a General Election event in Westminster on Thursday 21st November. At the event, representatives of the five main political parties will have the opportunity to set out their domestic policy offer to the older population and be questioned about it by an audience made up predominantly of older people.

One of the main issues that will be discussed is social care; in its manifesto[ii] the Charity is calling on whichever political party forms the next government to invest £8 billion into the current system over the next two years to prevent further decline, and to publish a bold plan to reform social care and place it on a fully secure financial footing into the future.

Age UK also estimates that in the 30 months between the last and forthcoming General Elections, 1,725,000[iii] requests have been made, or will be made, by older people for care and support which have resulted in them not receiving a care service. This is equivalent to 2,000 fruitless claims from older people a day, or 78 every hour.

This huge number of requests for help did not lead to any support actually being given for three main reasons: because the older people died or will die before services were provided, as has already been highlighted; because of a decision that they did not meet the eligibility criteria as interpreted by their local authority; or because their local authority signposted them to some other kind of help than a care service.

Age UK’s manifesto calls on every political party to propose policies to help the older people who need help the most. As well as social care, the manifesto highlights other issues with a big negative impact on older people including poverty, ageism, poor housing, loneliness and ill health. In the manifesto the Charity puts forward its preferred policies itself, with the expressed aim of “enabling every older person to enjoy the dignified, secure and fulfilling later life we all want for ourselves and those we love”.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Unfortunately we have effectively wasted the last thirty months, waiting for the Social Care Green Paper that never was. Many older people have lost out as a result, including the 74,000 who had applied or will apply for a care service over this period, but who died or will die before a care package was put together and actually provided. No one knows how many of these older people, if any, might have lived longer had they received care in time, but at the very least their final days would probably have been more comfortable and their families and friends would have felt better supported. 

“Social care is not some kind of nice-to-have optional extra, it’s a fundamental service on which millions of older and disabled people depend every day. Good care, provided by kind and committed people, enriches lives and makes it possible to have dignity and hope. The reverse is also true: if you need care and you can’t get it then there are very serious implications for your health and your wellbeing - as the NHS knows all too well. It is appalling that one and a half million older people in our country now have some unmet need for care[iv], one in seven of the entire older population.  This is a shameful statistic, and older people are developing new unmet needs for care every day.

“The truth is that our political system has completely failed when it comes to the reform and funding of social care and older and disabled people are being badly let down. This General Election is the latest in a long list of opportunities to put things right and we fervently hope that this time it’s different.

“Older people will be listening very carefully to what the representatives of the five political parties attending our Rally say on Thursday about their policies on social care, as will Age UK.”


Notes to Editors








[i] This figure is based on 2017/18 and 2018/19 data from NHS Digital which provides the number of older people (aged 65 and over) who died before social care services could be provided. We calculated the average number of people who died a day for 2017/18 and assumed that this average of 77 remained the same throughout the 297 days between 8th June 2017 and 31st March 2018, resulting in an estimate for that period of 22,922. For the period from 1st April 2018 – 31st March 2019 we used the total figure of 30,555 older people who died before care services were provided from the 2018/19 data. For the period from 1st April 2019 – 12th December 2019 there is not yet data available, therefore we assumed that the number of people dying a day without receiving care will be an average of the number from the 2017/18 and 2018/19 data, leading to an estimate of 80 older people dying a day, and a total of 20,514. We therefore estimated the total number of deaths among people aged 65 and over whilst waiting for care in the 917 days between the two elections will be 73,990, which we have rounded to the nearest thousand, to give 74,000.




[iii] This figure is based on 2017/18 and 2018/19 data from NHS Digital which provides the number of older people (aged 65 and over) who died before social care services could be provided, who the local authority assessed as being ineligible for care, or who the local authority signposted to some service other than care. We used the same method described above to give an estimate of the total number of older people who requested but did not receive care for the 917 days in the period 8th June 2017 – 12th December 2019, of 1,725,497, which we have rounded to the nearest thousand, to give 1,725,000.


[iv] Age UK estimates of the number of people aged 65 and older in England with an unmet need for care in 2017. This is based on analysis of wave 8 of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (collected 2016/17), with ONS population projections (accessed here: We have defined people as having an unmet need for social care if they a) have difficulty with one or more of six activities of daily living (washing, dressing, getting in or out of bed, using the toilet, eating, walking across a room) and b) either receive no formal or informal help or the help they receive does not meet their needs. Using these definitions we estimate that in 2017 22% of people aged 65+ had a need for social care, 15% of people aged 65+ had needs which were not met and 7% had needs which were met. We scaled these percentages up to the 65+ population of England in 2017 (10.0 million), to estimate that 2.2 million had a need for social care, of whom 1.5 million had a need which was unmet and 700,000 had a need which was met.

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Last updated: Nov 22 2019

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