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New projections point to substantial rise in costs of long-term care for older people

Britain can expect a substantial - possibly four-fold - increase in spending on long-term care for older people by the middle of the century as the number of people living into their late 80s and beyond increases and real care costs rise, according to a new report by academics from LSE and the University of Leicester.

Future Demand for Long-term Care in the UK: a summary of projections of long-term care finance for older people to 2051, prepared for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by Raphael Wittenberg, Adelina Comas-Herrera and Linda Pickard at LSE Health and Social Care, and Ruth Hancock, formerly at the University of Leicester, now at the University of Essex, is based on the latest official population projections. 

The projections suggest that: 

  • care spending would need to rise by 315 per cent in real terms between 2000 and 2051 to meet demographic pressures and rising costs, assuming that dependency rates, patterns of care and current funding arrangements remain unchanged.
  • on this set of assumptions, the proportion of national income (GDP) spent on care for older people would increase from around 1.4 per cent in 2000 to around 1.8 per cent in 2051.  
  • total UK spending on long-term care would rise from around £12.9 billion in 2000 to around £53.9 billion by 2051. This would see the proportion of national income (GDP) being spent on care for older people increase from 1.4 per cent to around 1.8 per cent.
  • to keep pace with demographic change, the number of places taken in residential care homes, nursing homes and hospitals would have to rise by around 150 per cent, from around 450,000 to 1,130,000, and the time spent by home care services caring for older people in their own homes would increase around 140 per cent, from around 2 million to more than 4.8 million hours per week.

The report emphasises that the projections are sensitive to the assumptions made about rises in unit costs and future dependency rates. For example:

  • future improvements in general health, or advances in the treatment of disabling illnesses, could lead to a reduction in the proportion of older people needing residential or nursing home care.
  • future public expenditure would also be affected by political decisions about the way in which long-term care is funded. 

The researchers estimate that, if free personal and nursing care had been introduced across the whole of the UK in 2000, public spending on long-term care would have risen immediately from £8.8 billion to £10.3 billion. Their projections suggest that public spending would reach £42.6 billion or more by 2051, compared with £35.4 billion if current funding arrangements were maintained. With free personal care, public spending would account for 79 per cent of all money spent on long-term care in 2051, as opposed to 66 per cent if the current system continued.

Ends

For further information, contact:

  • David Utting, Josteph Rowntree Foundation associate director (public affairs), tel: 020 7278 9665, mob: 
    07930 313790; email: david.utting@jrf.org.uk 
  • Adelina Comas-Herrera (author) 020 7955 7306
  • Ruth Hancock (author) 01206 873924 

Notes:

Future demand for long-term care in the UK: A summary of projections of long-term care finance for older people to 2051 by Raphael Wittenberg, Adelina Comas-Herrera, Linda Pickard and Ruth Hancock, is published by the Joseph Rowntree and available from York Publishing Services, 64 Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York YO31 7ZQ (01904 430033) price £9.95 plus £2 p&p. 

A summary of findings is available, free of charge, from JRF, The Homestead, 40 Water End, York YO30 6WP. The report and the summary of findings can both be downloaded, free of charge, from www.jrf.org.uk| 

This project uses 2002-based population projections issued by the Government Actuary's Department in 2003 and updates work carried out for the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) based on earlier, 2000-based population projections.

For more information on LSE Health and Social Care, see LSE Health and Social Care| 

Press cuttings

Evening Standard (9 September 04)
Long-term care costs to rise fourfold  
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, entitled Future Demand for Long-Term Care in the UK, by LSE and University of Leicester, predicted that the number of places needed in residential care homes, nursing homes and hospitals will rise from 450,000 to 1,130,000 by 2051, an increase of around 150 per cent. 

Daily Mail (8 September 04)
Long-term care costs to rise fourfold 

Guardian (8 September 04)
Society facts
LSE and the University of Leicester predict that total spending on long-term care in Britain will have to rise from £12.9bn in 2000 to £53.9bn in 2051. 

Times (8 September 04)

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